Jenson Button has claimed his third pole position of the season on a last lap flyer that almost didn’t happen thanks to the Brawn team cutting it very fine with the time. However, in a car that Button hasn’t been fully comfortable with all weekend, the Briton managed to pull a good lap out of the bag and clinched the top spot by just 0.133s. Sebastian Vettel lines up alongside Button on the grid with Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa qualifying in third and fourth respectively.
Qualifying is important at the Circuit de Catalunya as overtaking can be difficult. All the cars test in Barcelona over the winter and therefore each driver has an optimum set up and they all know the track very well. Despite this though, Sebastien Buemi still left the tarmac in Q2 and Heikki Kovalainen struggled all the way through Q1.
The first session started slowly with only the Force Indias and Kovalainen running for the first few minutes, and immediately it was clear that the number-2 McLaren was not behaving well for its Finnish driver. Kovalainen was running wide through some corners, missing apexes and even skating over some and being forced to correct a tank-slap on the exit. Needless to say, the Finn was one of the names in the bottom five after the first twenty minute stint was up. Kovalainen did say after qualifying that Nick Heidfeld held him up slightly on his final run, but also admitted that it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.
However, Kovalainen wasn’t the biggest surprise of Q1 as Ferrari once again fell foul of their strategy and Kimi Raikkonen was forced to vacate his car and take no further part in qualifying. The team miscalculated Raikkonen’s lap time in comparison to the others and decided that he didn’t need to run again, presuming he was safe for the second part of qualifying. Unfortunately, both Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr improved their times towards the end and Raikkonen was pushed down to P16 and out.
Both Williams pilots looked very handy in Q1 as Nico Rosberg managed P5 and Kazuki Nakajima managed P6. Unfortunately for the Grove team, the performance slipped the further into qualifying they went, but the initial running was fairly impressive, especially as Nakajima was only 0.073s off his team mate’s pace.
Also failing to make the grade in Q1 were Sebastien Bourdais in the Scuderia Toro Rosso (his team mate Sebastien Buemi managed P11) and both Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella, who line up P19 and P20 respectively. Felipe Massa managed the fastest lap, which was in stark contrast to the efforts of the sister Ferrari.
Q2 is where it started to unravel for the second Scuderia Toro Rosso, as Sebastien Buemi skated over the gravel at T9 after losing his car on the entry. Buemi just missed the barrier and was able to rejoin the track. It wasn’t a great confidence booster though and the Swiss pilot only managed P15, 0.262s slower than Lewis Hamilton ahead of him.
Once again, the BMW drivers left it until late in the 15 minute session before venturing out on track. It looked troublesome for the German squad to begin with, but Robert Kubica managed to string together a decent time. Nick Heidfeld though couldn’t and left qualifying after his final attempt at improving. Heidfeld finished in P13, just behind Nelson Piquet Jr.
The battle at the front was hotting up as Sebastian Vettel managed a fastest time of 1m20.220s. Team mate Mark Webber eclipsed this with a 1m20.007s which was then obliterated by Rubens Barrichello who became the only driver in qualifying to dip into the sub-80s lap times, setting a 1m19.954s. Felipe Massa came close as did Jenson Button, but it was the second Brawn that lead the pack into the final showdown.
It looked to be Barrichello’s day after his fine performance in the second qualifying session, and his fastest lap of the final 10 minute run was a belter. However, Vettel and Button had other ideas and on his final run, the Red Bull pilot pulled a special lap out of the bag. Vettel managed to lap the Barcelona track 0.102s quicker and looked very healthy in the pole position.
Jenson Button wasn’t about to give up and crossed the start/finish line with barely enough time on the clock to blink. Managing to get through though, Button’s final lap would count. The Briton looked a little off-colour though throughout qualifying, instead seemingly deferring the glory to his team mate. This was rectified soon enough as the Brawn driver set about his final tour of the track. By the time Button approached the timing beacon for the final time, he was more than a tenth up on Vettel and stole the pole position from right under the Red Bull pilot’s nose.
Felipe Massa drove very well to take P4, ahead of Mark Webber and the Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli. Fernando Alonso managed P8 in front of his home crowds while Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica rounded out the top-ten.
- The qualifying results can be viewed here: Spain 2009: Qualifying Result.
- The live qualifying notes can be viewed here: Spain 2009: Live Qualifying Notes.
- The grid (inclusive of penalties) can be viewed here: Spain 2009: The Grid.
- The post-qualifying car weights can be viewed here: Spain 2009: Post-Qualifying Car Weights.