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Button grabs pole to kick off season in Australia

Latest update : 2009-03-29

The first Formula One Grand Prix of the 2009 season, on Sunday in Melbourne, should start well for the Brawn GP team: Jenson Button (photo) qualified on Saturday in pole position, just ahead of his teammate Rubens Barrichello.

AFP - Briton Jenson Button snared pole position just ahead of teammate Rubens Barrichello as newcomers Brawn GP seized initial control of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix here on Saturday.

Button, backed by just three days' testing with the Brawn team, hastily put together in the wake of a management buy-out of the Honda team, burnt off his rivals for his fourth career pole.

The 29-year-old, with just one victory in 153 GPs over nine seasons, has a marvellous chance for only his second GP triumph in Sunday's Melbourne race, with the experienced Barrichello looming as his chief threat for honours.

It is the first time since 1970 that a new team has captured the pole in its first F1 race.

"It's fantastic. The team has really stuck together over a tough winter and they have produced a good car at the moment, and I feel they will make it even better," Button said.

"People always tell you maybe you shouldn't be thinking about going out for the pole or the win, but why shouldn't you?

"I think it's good to go into the weekend positive because we have got a good car."

Button swept around the Albert Street circuit in one minute 26.202 seconds, ahead of Barrichello's best of 1:26.505.

Rising German star Sebastian Vettel was third quickest in his Red Bull in 1:26.830 in an eventful hour-long qualifying with world champion Lewis Hamilton forced to start off the back row of Sunday's grid after gearbox problems.

The British star failed to come out of the McLaren team garage for the second section of qualifying and was credited with 15th position, but he incurred a mandatory five-place grid penalty and was relegated to 20th.

"I just lost all drive in the gearbox and couldn't continue," Hamilton said.

"I'm still determined to drive an attacking race tomorrow."

Renault's two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will start off on the sixth row after his indistinguished 12th place.

World constructors champions Ferrari were also left behind in the slipstream of the two Brawns with Felipe Massa to come off the fourth row after his seventh and Kimi Raikkonen one row behind after his ninth.

Button is wary because the last time he had pole in Australia, in 2006, his Honda ended up limping home in 10th.

"It's great to be in pole position, but I just hope that the end position is better than back in 2006, and I am expecting it will be," he said.

"Roll on the season, I'm so excited about this year and it's amazing what you can achieve when you have the package and the team that you believe in."

Barrichello, at age 36 a nine-time winner in 268 race starts, said his veteran status was irrelevant.

"I feel younger than most of them, and I think I've shown that there is nothing that is veteran about myself," Barrichello said.

"I'm grateful to have a good car and it's been tough for the last few seasons, so it's great to be back in a great car."

Third fastest was a tribute to the huge potential of 21-year-old Vettel in only his third F1 season.

"It's been a difficult two days leading up to qualifying," Vettel said.

"I completed only one lap in the first practice, then made a mistake in the second, which meant we couldn't run through our programme.

"Then we had a failure this morning, which cost me some track time, so it's been anything but ideal."

Date created : 2009-03-28