Championship leaders Brawn GP endured a tough qualifying session for the Singapore Grand Prix, leaving Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello with work to do in F1's second race under lights.
Although he made it through the first stage of qualifying without any problems, points leader Button struggled with the balance of his car during Q2 and failed to make the final stage of qualifying for the second time in three races – posting the twelfth quickest time and leaving him with work to do on race day.
"It was a frustrating qualifying session for us today,” he said. “The car felt pretty good in Q1 and I was the second quickest which was positive. We had a bit of understeer so we made some changes for Q2 but unfortunately it made the car very difficult under braking and I locked the front left tyre up into turn seven which lost me a lot of time.
“Then with a flat-spotted front tyre, it's impossible to make the time up around here so that was my qualifying over. We'll make the best of it tomorrow of course but starting from twelfth on the grid is going to make it a tough race."
Team-mate Barrichello – Button's closest title challenger – went into qualifying knowing that he would need to take a five place grid penalty after the team changed his gearbox prior to the session.
Like Button, he struggled in Q2 but was able to make it to the final stage of qualifying with a lap just before the chequered flag although Q3 would end with the Brazilian in the wall at turn five after he lost control under breaking. Having posted the fifth quickest time, he will line up tenth for the start once his penalty is applied.
"It was an eventful qualifying session for me today but I'm still feeling positive with starting from tenth position on the grid,” he said. “Considering everything that happened, I feel that it's a pretty good result. I had a problem with the car after Q2 when I hit the kerb too hard and probably damaged the floor as the car wasn't feeling quite right at the end of the session.
“It was a great lap to get into Q3 as we were struggling for pace and I knew that I had to push regardless of any damage. I was really going for it on my final run in Q3 and unfortunately the car bottomed out and I lost control and ended up bouncing off the wall. It's a shame but the car should be ok and we can look forward to the race tomorrow."
With neither driver able to shine in the session, team principal Ross Brawn said the team aim for race day was to recover as much as possible after what had 'clearly not been a great day'.
"It was a difficult qualifying session for the team in Singapore this evening,” he said. “Prior to qualifying, we took the decision to change the gearbox in Rubens' car as this is a heavy duty cycle track for gearboxes and further dyno simulations had shown that keeping the box was too risky. Both drivers progressed comfortably through Q1 then we struggled in Q2 and were not able to get the cars balanced. Rubens put in a good lap at the end to progress with Jenson suffering from understeer throughout the day. We made some significant changes to his car prior to qualifying but were not able to get into the top ten. We expected to be more competitive in Q3 but with Rubens' accident, it's clearly not been a great day. We have to tough it out and see what we can recover tomorrow."