Formula 1 World Championship leader Jenson Button reflected after qualifying for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix that he was a touch disappointed to have missed out on pole position to Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel – but he made clear that around a track where overtaking is far from impossible, he intends to break a four-year-old record on Sunday.
In every previous edition of the race around the technically challenging, undulating and physically demanding Istanbul Park Circuit – one of only three anti-clockwise venues on the calendar, alongside Interlagos and Singapore – the pole-sitter has gone on to triumph, with Kimi Raikkonen winning for McLaren-Mercedes in 2005 and Felipe Massa remaining unbeaten for Ferrari ever since.
Though, by dint of his advantageous position on the grid, Vettel will now be favourite to maintain that trend, Button – who was never out of the top three throughout the qualifying session, lapping second-quickest in Q1 and Q3 and third in the low-fuel Q2 – leaves no doubt that he will be doing his utmost to stop the young German in his tracks.
“With the changes to the set-up that we made overnight, the car felt much better today and we were really able to get to grips with improving the pace,” the 29-year-old reported. “It's great to be starting on the front row; of course I would prefer to be on pole, but Sebastian did a great job.
“It was quite difficult to choose between the tyres today, as their performance was quite similar. The 'prime' was a little too twitchy for my liking, so I continued to run the 'option' tyre for Q3 which had a more gradual and rolling feel.
“It should be a good race tomorrow as I really enjoy this circuit and you can overtake here, so there will hopefully be some good battles out on the track. We will be trying very hard to change the statistic that everyone who has started from pole here has won the race!”
The British star was ably backed up in the final reckoning by Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who made an audacious strategy of a long five-lap run on primes in the second half of Q3 pay off, improving his time with every lap and vaulting up from seventh to third with his last effort – a tenth-and-a-half shy of the sister car.
“The team has done a great job since the practice sessions yesterday to make improvements,” underlined the experienced Brazilian, “and the car felt immediately better this morning. Qualifying went really well, although I did have a worrying moment in Q2 when traffic affected my second run and the times were so close between the top eleven drivers.
“The main question in qualifying today was trying to understand which tyre performed better. I had a better feeling through the high-speed corners with the prime tyre, and it was the best choice for me so I went for just the one run on the primes in Q3. I lost my first two flying laps to traffic, but the third lap was really good. I have the advantage of starting from the clean side tomorrow, so I will be aiming for a good start and will take it from there.”
“A real team performance today to turn around what was an uncharacteristically challenging Friday for us,” summarised the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Ross Brawn. “A lot of hard work overnight from the drivers, engineers and technicians – both here and at the factory in Brackley – resolved the issues that we faced and gave us the pace that we needed to compete at the front in qualifying.
“Jenson and Rubens had different preferences for the tyres today, so we adopted two very different strategies for Q3, both of which paid off with top three grid positions. We know that the car performs well with fuel, so that gives us confidence for the race tomorrow.”