Jenson Button described his pole position here in Barcelona as ’the best pole I have ever had’ and it’s hard to argue.
He crossed the line to start the lap with only two seconds to spare after a mix up with his team over track position, which caused him to find BMW’s Robert Kubica in his path in the build up to the lap. He thought Kubica was on a hot lap and let him through, but he wasn’t and he then had to drop back to find a space. But he onlt had four seconds to spare on the lap, so he had to judge it carefully. “It could have gone horribly wrong, “ as he said.
But he mentally parked the stress of that and then he delivered a perfect lap, finding just under a second from his previous run.
His two main rivals for pole position, team mate Rubens Barrichello and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel both improved by seven tenths of a second from their first runs, but the 29 year old championship leader showed he has the greater hunger. Vettel had used new tyres for both runs, whereas both Brawn drivers had used tyres on the first run and new ones on the second. New tyres are worth probably half a second, so actually Vettel did a great job.
I’m so impressed with his consistency. He has been in the top three in qualifying at every race. Here the Red Bull has less updates than the Brawn, so for him to split them in qualifying is a great effort.
Ferrari had a mixed day, with a real confidence boosting fourth place for Felipe Massa tempered by a shocking mistake with Kimi Raikkonen’s car for which both he and the team must take the blame. Raikkonen did just five laps in Q1 and set a time of 1m21.291.
I was in the McLaren garage for the first part of qualifying, standing in a new pod, smack in the middle of the garage, which is for VIP guests and sponsors, designed to get them really close to the action. It certainly does that and I will write a post on that another time, with images.
Anyway, part of the experience is listening to Lewis Hamilton’s team radio. With five minutes to go before the final runs, he asked his engineer, Phil Prue, what the cut off for making it into the top 15 would be. Prue looked at the computer and said, “1m 20.8, somewhere around there.”
Raikkonen was already four tenths off that so once again, as in Malaysia, the team was overconfident and paid the price. If Button wins again tomorrow, Kimi could be 38 points behind him and his chances of getting anything out of the championship ruined.
Everyone has brought some kind of updates here, but Ferrari is the team which has made the biggest gain, as you would expect really. Massa in fourth place with KERS has a great chance of leading on the first lap as he will gain 10 metres on the rest on the run down to the first corner. From there he has a chance because the long run pace of his car is good. It’s not as quick as Brawn, but it’s quick enough if he’s leading on lap one for him to score Ferrari\s first podium of the season.
Soon the KERS on the Ferrarin is going to be the thing which gets them ahead of Brawn and I asked Mercedes’ Norbert Haug whether he will sell his class leading system to Brawn if they represent Mercedes’ best chance of winning the chanpionship. He didn’t rule it out, but said that it would be hard to integrate into the Brawn car. Discussions are ongoing apparently.
Today was another example of how Button is growing into the role of F1 front –runner. He had a number of things to contend with and yet he mastered the situation and pulled out the performance when he most needed it.
Brawn have brought an updated package to this race with a new floor and new bodywork designed to give the car an extra 3/10ths of a second of performance. Buttton struggled in practice with the new parts and admitted that he had to copy some elements of Barrichello’s set up to get the car balanced in qualifying.
There’s no shame in that, Michael Schumacher use to do it regularly when he was team mates with the Brazilian at Ferrari.