Button takes Australia pole

01/04/2006
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 19 degrees C, while the track temperature is 26 degrees. Following this morning's rain showers, the track has now dried, though the threat of further downpours remains. It is currently overcast, and quite windy.

The pace-setters in this morning's free practice session were the BMW drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve. However, the Canadian forfeits ten grid spots following today's session as a result of an engine change.

The lights go green and first out is Ralf, followed by Trulli, Monteiro, Liuzzi, Speed, Sato and Ide. In Bahrain and Malaysia, Renault left it very late before going out, one wonders if they will continue this strategy this weekend.

Liuzzi posts the first time of the session, but this is soon beaten by teammate Scott Speed. Meanwhile, Ide has one of his customary off-track moments.

Behind Speed, Ralf goes second and Trulli third.

As Liuzzi goes quickest, Ide has another off, while Albers goes third ahead of Klien, Ralf, Trulli and Sato.

Though the session is only eight minutes old, Ide has yet another moment. This time he spins in the middle of the track and has problems getting the car going again. He is having problems finding the reverse gear.

The session is stopped, which is frustrating as several drivers, most notably Raikkonen and Coulthard, were on fast laps.

A couple of minutes later the session resumes, and Montoya heads the traffic jam at the end of the pitlane. Just over seven minutes remaining and all the big guns are on track.

Montoya goes quickest in the first sector, but almost instantly his time his eclipsed by Fisichella. The Colombian is quickest again in the second sector, but once again Fisichella goes quicker.

Montoya goes quickest ahead of Michael, however, Fisichella beats the pair of them, crossing the line at 1:27.765.

Ralf goes third ahead of Rosberg, who is them demoted by teammate Webber.

A 1:27.748 sees Jarno Trulli go quickest as Button goes third. However, Fisichella and Webber are both on hot laps.

Raikkonen goes quickest (27.193), as Ide holds up Barrichello, who is still in the 'danger zone'.

Montoya goes quickest (27.079), as Barrichello crosses the line in seventeenth, an absolute disaster for the Brazilian.

Speed and Button both have offs, but at least the Englishman has made it through to the second round of the session, unlike the American.

Montoya is quickest, ahead of Raikkonen, Webber, Trulli, Fisichella, Heidfeld, Ralf, Button, Michael and Rosberg.

At the first hurdle we lose Ide, Sato, Monteiro, Speed, Albers and Barrichello.

The BMW drivers, Heidfeld and Villeneuve, lead the way as the second round gets underway. They are followed by Liuzzi, Trulli and Ralf Schumacher.

Heidfeld sets the benchmark, crossing the line at 1:26.561, Liuzzi goes second ahead of Villeneuve. That was a very, very fast lap from the German.

That said, Trulli improves with a 1:26.472, as Coulthard goes fourth ahead of Klien.

Heidfeld re-takes the top spot with a 1:26.438, as Kimi Raikkonen, Alonso and Fisichella begin their laps.

The Finn goes quickest in the first sector, but loses a little pace in the second. At the line it's 1:26.161, a sensational lap, even though he nearly loses the back of the car at the first corner.

All eyes on Alonso who is quickest in sector one and sector two. The Spaniard crosses the line at 1:25.729, a sensational lap. Elsewhere, Fisichella goes third with a 1:1:26.316.

Montoya goes quickest in sector one, as Rosberg has a little off track excursion, the German appearing to overdrive the car.

Montoya goes second (27.079), as Massa goes off into the barriers, his session over.

For the second time today, the session is red flagged.

Watching the replay, it is an unusual incident, and one wonders whether the strong winds played a part. Teammate Michael Schumacher takes seventh spot.

Just over five minutes remaining and Webber and Button have yet to post a time. The other drivers in the 'danger zone' are Rosberg, Villeneuve, Klien, and, of course, Massa.

The lights go green and Liuzzi is first out, however both Ralf Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld are keen to get past him as soon as possible and find some clear track.

Webber goes quickest in the second sector, going on to post a 1:26075, which puts him fourth. Raikkonen goes fifth ahead of Fisichella, Trulli and Button, as Michael Schumacher drops into the 'danger zone'.

With around a minute remaining, it starts to rain, and Michael returns to the pits, aware that he has missed the cut. A dreadful day for Ferrari.

The second round sees Alonso quickest ahead of Montoya, Heidfeld, Webber, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Trulli, Button, Ralf and Villeneuve.

We lose Michael, Coulthard, Liuzzi, Klien, Rosberg and Massa.

As the final phase of the session gets underway, it is still spitting rain, spectators reach for umbrellas and pac-a-macs. This, of course, means that the rain stops and sun comes out from behind the clouds.

As the fuel burning phase gets underway, the two Renaults almost trip over one another, Alonso keen to get past his teammate.

Webber and Heidfeld had both originally opted to use Intermediates, however they now return to the pits for 'dry tyres', in order not to fall foul of the new 110% fuel top-up rule.

Under nine minutes remaining and the hot laps should soon begin… we hope.

Montoya pits, where he receives fresh rubber… along the pitlane, Villeneuve is in the BMW garage getting some last minute instructions.

Jarno Trulli will play no further part in this session, the Italian's Toyota suffering a gearbox problem. Meanwhile, Mark Webber has an off, even though he's not on a hot lap.

Montoya is on a very hot lap, going quickest in the first two sectors. He crosses the line at 1:26.391, to take provisional pole. This is the cue for his rivals to pit and change to fresh rubber.

Under four minutes remaining.

Fisichella and Ralf both begin hot laps, as Alonso goes quickest of all in the first sector. The Spaniard is quickest again in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 1:25.778.

Webber improves to second as Montoya spins and Fisichella goes second.

However, it's not over yet, far from it, Button goes quickest with a 1:25.229, as Raikkonen takes third, splitting the Renaults.

Fisichella takes second, as Montoya and Raikkonen are both on hot laps. The Finn fails to improve, as does his Colombian teammate, which means that Button gives Honda pole position, much to the delight of his crew; "go on my son!" they scream into the radio.

What a mixed day for the Japanese team, Button on pole, while his teammate will start from seventeenth.

Behind Button, Fisichella will start second, ahead of Alonso, Raikkonen, Montoya, Ralf, Webber, Heidfeld, Villeneuve and Trulli. That said, Villeneuve drops to nineteenth, which promotes Michael Schumacher to tenth, though he doesn't have the fuel restrictions he would have had if he had qualified tenth.

Although he has started from pole twice before, this is surely Button's best chance yet to convert the prized position into a race win. However, we are sure that Giancarlo, Fernando, Kimi and Juan Pablo will have other ideas.

It should be a good one, and the threat of rain merely adds to the sense of anticipation.

To check out our Melbourne qualifying gallery, click here

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Published: 01/04/2006
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