JENSON BUTTON/No.22 Brawn GP took the pole Saturday afternoon at Albert Park in Melbourne for the Formula One season’s opener with a lap of 1:25.211/137.612 mph/221.465 kph. His flyer lap was set as the checkered flag was about to be waved. The session was scheduled to end at 6 PM local time, all fast laps were set as the checkered flag was waved. The majority of the qualifiers ran the Super Soft option tires. The weather was sunny, warm and clear.
It’s a Brawn GP front row as RUBENS BARRICHELLO/No.23 B was second fastest. He also set the fastest lap overall Saturday at dusk, turning a 1:24.783/139.915 mph/225.kph in the second of the three qualifying sessions.
It had been expected that RICHARD BRANSON, owner of Virgin Airlines and early contender as buyer of the Honda Team, which is now Brawn GP, would sponsor the team. He backed off pursuing ownership of the Honda team, and was waiting to see how the new Brawn team’s principles would be set. It was thought the Virgin Airlines sponsorship would be announced Friday. The plain white car with flashy green highlights had been devoid of sponsorship for all three sessions. Saturday morning it was naked white. Saturday afternoon tastefully and relatively small Virgin logos were seen on the car. Maybe their size will increase now that Brawn has the front row for Sunday’s 5 pm race. Branson flew into Melbourne Friday and was highly visible Saturday at the track.
Last year’s AGP pole time of 1:26.714 was set by Lewis Hamilton. This year he will start at the other end of the grid. Saturday was not a good day for the 2008 F1 Champion. He hasn’t run fast, and he had problems in qualifying. On his second flyer lap in the first session, he broke what might have been a dog ring in his gear box and coasted into the pits and out of contention. The team opted to change the gearbox instead of just the gears. This means Hamilton will go to the back of the grid, as gearboxes are mandated to last four races this season.
The AGP qualifying lap record still belongs to seven-time F1 World Champion, MICHAEL SCHUMACHER, set in 2004 at 1:24.125.
Schumacher is at Albert Park, in his role as Ferrari consultant, and he is on the pit wall for all sessions.
Both the Toyotas had their qualifying times disallowed after post-qualifying scrutineering found the upper rear wing elements to have “extreme flexibility” in violation of Article 3.15 of the F1 technical regulations, as reported by FIA Technical Delegate, JO BAUER, to the Stewards. The regulations say the wings must be “rigidly secured” to the sprung part of the car and not have “any degree of freedom.” This was determined after Toyota’s representative made an explanation and the cars were examined.
Toyota said “The design has passed our own internal test procedures which are designed to reproduce twice the proscribed official load tests. In light of this decision it is clear we must review these procedures to ensure there is no repeat of this situation and we will also review our production processes to ensure there is no variation between parts.
“We naturally accept and respect the decision of the race stewards.
“We intend to modify the components overnight and we are confident these modifications will not result in any performance drop.”
The Court of Appeals date has been set for the hearing on the diffuser issue – 14 April 2009, the week of the Shanghai race – Round Three. The outcome could affect the results and points from the first two races, depending on COA outcome.
FORMULA ONE QUALIFYING ORDER – prior to FIA DSQ & gearbox change
JENSON BUTTON/Brawn GP
RUBENS BARRICHELLO/Brawn GP
SEBASTIAN VETTEL/Red Bull
ROBERT KUBICA/BMW Sauber
MARK WEBBER/Red Bull
NICK HEIDFELD/BMW Sauber
SEBASTIEN BUEMI/Toro Rosso
GIANCARLO FISICHELLA/Force India F1
ADRIAN SUTIL/Force India F1
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/Toro Rosso