There were not many drivers smiling after qualifying here yesterday, as the pre-event favourites Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel found themselves further back than they had expected. But Jenson Button was one of those with the biggest grin. It was not just the fact that he had taken his first pole position for McLaren in his 50th race for the team that had him smiling, but also the suggestions that he might be thinking of helping Hamilton's title aspirations.
"It's the halfway point and there wasn't enough to talk about over the summer break, so you get asked unusual questions," Button said, dismissing the latter subject. "I'm sure Lewis is disappointed to be where he is, but for me it's been a great day.
"It's quite a long time since my last pole position, at Monaco in 2009, so it's emotional. A lot of Saturdays have not gone so perfectly for me so it's important to come back so strongly. It feels close to winning a grand prix for me."
He said that once he and his engineers had found a decent balance, they just tickled it all through the three qualifying sessions, the second of which saw Vettel fail to better 11th place. There is a glimmer of hope for the world champion as a five-grid place penalty for a gearbox change drops his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber from seventh to 12th and thus promotes Vettel to 10th. But the Milton Keynes team are having a tough weekend.
So is Hamilton. As errors held the much-fancied Raikkonen down to fourth place, separated from Button by Sauber upstart Kamui Kobayashi and Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado, and Alonso ended up pretty much where he had expected, in sixth place behind Sergio Perez in the other Sauber, the Englishman struggled with his high-downforce McLaren and was lucky to get elevated a place to seventh by Webber's penalty.
"Damn, WTF!!" Hamilton tweeted immediately after qualifying. "Jenson has the new rear wing on, I have the old. We voted to change, didn't work out. I lose 0.4 tenths just on the straight. Nothing I could do. Now, it's about picking up every point I can from there. Jenson should win easy with that speed.
"Ps. Can't change the car once qualifying starts. I hope@JensonButton brings home maximum points. I'll try & support him." Button is delighted that the boot is on his foot this time. "If I knew why it was so good it would make everything great," he laughed. "My style makes it difficult to find a car that works for me in qualifying, but when it does…
"Today is a good day, so special thanks to my engineers Dave and Tom. It's a big satisfaction not to put a foot wrong all through qualifying, and they were really on it today so congratulations to them.
"It's very important to try to win. It's a lot to ask to fight for the championship, but I need to be on the podium and finish ahead of Fernando in every race, which isn't easy with his consistency. But this is a good start and a win would be very important in the fight. But the problem is that we really don't know what's going to happen in the race after we all missed practice because of the rain on Friday."