Jenson Button has described securing the top spot in qualifying for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix as 'even more special' than when he did so for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne seven days ago – as after more than 150 appearances in Formula 1, the British star has finally registered back-to-back pole positions to bring his career total up to five.
Having swept all before him Down Under, Button did so again in Sepang, as Brawn GP's early-season supremacy in the top flight shows few signs of easing up. However, he did not have it quite all his own way in Kuala Lumpur, after being unhappy with the balance of his Mercedes-powered BGP 001 during practice, having to stave off a sustained threat from the Toyota of Jarno Trulli and lapping 'only' seventh-quickest in Q1. He would not lay that far down the timing screens for long.
“Achieving pole position today in Malaysia is possibly even more special than last week in Australia,” the 29-year-old enthused, after narrowly pipping Trulli by just under a tenth of a second. “It's not easy to get one pole, but two successive poles is just fantastic and it's a first for me in my Formula 1 career. It's a great feeling and proves that our car works well on different types of circuit.
“We were really struggling with the balance yesterday and I had a lot of rear locking; however, we made some changes to the car overnight which really improved it for today and it felt really good throughout qualifying. It's a big turnaround, and I have to say thank you to the team for their hard work in such tough conditions. They did a fantastic job. We are hoping that the rain stays away tomorrow, but you just never know at this circuit and we will be working hard tonight to make sure we are prepared for all eventualities.”
Unfortunately for the team, this time around Rubens Barrichello in the sister Virgin-backed entry was unable to join Button on the front row, having to take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change the previous day. That notwithstanding, the experienced Brazilian was never quite on the Briton's stunning pace, even if he did snatch P1 in the one phase of qualifying in which his team-mate failed to do so, maintaining Brawn GP's uninterrupted 2009 qualifying hegemony.
“It was a good qualifying session for the team today,” reflected the 36-year-old, who admitted to having grappled with understeer en route
to fourth spot, what becomes eighth with his penalty taken into account. “Well done to Jenson once again as he had the pace to put the car on pole.
“Unfortunately on my side of the garage, the car developed understeer in qualifying and we were not able to resolve the problem. However, we know the performance of the car in race conditions is strong, and I will be aiming to score as many points as possible tomorrow before I can start chasing for my own pole positions and wins.”
“It was a great qualifying performance from Jenson and the team today,” summarised team principal Ross Brawn, “particularly as we had some issues with the balance of the car in yesterday's practice sessions. At the start of qualifying there was a distinct possibility of rain, so we went out early in Q1 to bank some dry running and from there it was a busy session with the track evolving incredibly quickly.
“Rubens was struggling for grip under braking which resulted in understeer, and he was never completely happy with the balance of his car. With the replacement of his gearbox, this puts him further back on the grid than we would have hoped; however, his experience will stand him in good stead in the race.
“Jenson was much happier with the balance, which reflects in his second pole of the season after an excellent lap. It was an incredibly close session, and with the prospect of rain in the race tomorrow, we should be in for a very eventful and exciting Malaysian Grand Prix.”