Button takes pole position at Monaco

Formula One championship leader Jenson Button won pole position today for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Brawn GP driver will start first on the grid for the fourth time this year after setting a fastest lap of 1 minute, 14.902 seconds around the famous street circuit.

"Today was a really tight fight," Button said. "(Qualifying) was manic as it always is in Monaco."

Ferrari starts on the front row for the first time this season after Kimi Raikkonen finished 0.025 seconds behind.

Rubens Barrichello of Brawn GP and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel make up the second row with Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg of Williams filling the third row.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who won here last year, crashed during the first session and will start 16th for the 78-lap race.

Button and Barrichello also started first and third at the previous Spanish GP, where they went on to lead Brawn GP to a 1-2 finish at Barcelona. Button took his seventh career pole, despite his car struggling for balance during practice on Thursday.

"Starting on pole is obviously an advantage ... but it's a long race and anything can happen, as they say," Button said. "Some people say Monaco can be a procession but I don't think that will be the case. It's not as easy as just qualifying on pole and you've won the race."

Button has won four of the first five races to lead Barrichello by 14 points in the standings. Vettel trails Button by 18 points in third.

Ferrari continued to rebound from its worst ever start to a season, as Raikkonen qualified on the front row for the first time since last year's French GP. The 2007 champion hasn't won a race since the 2008 Spanish GP more than one year ago, and the narrow Monaco street course is infamously difficult to overtake at.

The overtaking boost provided by the new KERS system may just give the Finnish a chance at getting around Button.

"I'm only interesting in winning. I have nothing to lose, the team needs points," Raikkonen said. "We're not really in the championship. We know that the team has not had an easy time this year but we've shown some signs that we still need work."

Button and Barrichello squeezed out of the first session in 14th and 15th position, and Barrichello was surprised by his teammates pace in the final session.

"Honestly, I thought I had the upper hand on Jenson today," said Barrichello, who turned 37 on Saturday.

Hamilton — who won a dramatic race in the rain in 2008 — may have missed an opportunity to fight for a podium.

The British driver's brakes locked as he came into Mirabeau corner and his rear left tire snapped after his car swiped the wall.

A dejected Hamilton could only hang his head as he waited beside the track to be taken back to the garage while stewards removed his car.

Toyota's early-season momentum continued to falter as Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock qualified 19th and 20th, respectively, behind the two BMW Saubers which have also struggled all season.