Button takes his first pole for McLaren

Jenson Button recorded his first pole position for McLaren with a fantastic performance in a dramatic qualifying session.

After racing with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team for three seasons, the 2009 world champion finally achieved the top grid result after 50 races. His last pole was at Monaco in his championship-winning year.

His lap around the challenging Spa-Francorchamps track was impressive one minute, 47.573 seconds.

Kamui Kobayashi claimed his maiden front-row start as he underlined Sauber’s speed with an amazing second position, while world champion Sebastian Vettel was unable to go any further than Q2.

Button put himself eight tenths clear of the 24-car field for much of Q2, then repeated that sheer pace to deliver a one minute, 47.686 seconds early in Q3.

One of the few drivers to do two runs, Jenson found even more time at the second attempt and delivered the ultimate pole position lap.

Kobayashi was three tenths adrift as he secured his career-best Formula One start, while his team-mate Sergio Perez also shone in fifth position.

After setting the pace in Q1, Pastor Maldonado was another star underdog as he took third for Williams. Although an impeding incident involving the 12th-place qualifier Nico Hulkenberg is under investigation.

Pre-race favourite Lotus could only managed fourth with Kimi Raikkonen and ninth with Romain Grosjean. The latter had a few scary moments just getting out of Q1 following a mistake and traffic issues with an HRT.

World championship leader Fernando Alonso could not repeat his FP3 performance and will start in sixth position.

As one McLaren took pole, the other was only eighth quickest, although Lewis Hamilton will gain a place when Mark Webber’s Red Bull is demoted five places from seventh due to a gearbox change penalty.

Force India’s Paul di Resta completed the top ten at Spa-Francorchamps.

Vettel was the most significant incident during a close Q2. Just two tenths separated him from his team-mate Webber, but that translated to seven positions, as last year’s Spa pole sitter and race winner ended up only P11, 0.012 seconds off a Q3 spot.

He was not the only big name to miss out. Felipe Massa trailed behind the sister Ferrari of Alonso by seven tenths as he struggled to P14. While Michael Schumacher, competing in his 300th Formula One race, could only qualify in P13 for Mercedes.

Already carrying a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change following FP3, Nico Rosberg was only P18 in qualifying after crossing the line moments too late for a final Q1 run.

Rosberg’s disappointment meant both Toro Rossos reached Q2, where they beat the Williams of Bruno Senna. The Brazilian pulled off an incredible save after sliding sideways across the kerbs through most of Pouhon, then had to pit for repairs and could not get above P17 when he rejoined.

While at the back, Timo Glock used Marussia’s upgrades to get a little closer to the Caterhams, but his team-mate Charles Pic was beaten to P22 by Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT.

Grid positions at Spa-Francorchamps:

1.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1m47.573s
2.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1m47.871s
3.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1m47.893s
4.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1m48.205s
5.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1m48.219s
6.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1m48.313s
7.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1m48.394s
8.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault         1m48.538s
9.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1m48.890s
10.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1m49.722s
11.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1m49.362s
12.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1m48.392s*
13.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1m49.742s
14.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1m49.588s
15.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.763s
16.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.572s
17.  Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      1m49.958s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1m51.739s
19.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1m51.967s
20.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1m52.336s
21.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1m53.030s
22.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1m53.493s
23.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1m50.181s*
24.  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth          1m54.989s

107 per cent time: 1m56.622s

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

12 thoughts to “Button takes his first pole for McLaren”

  1. After taking his first pole position for McLaren at the challenging Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The 2009 world champion has commented that a race win is important in order to remain in the championship hunt. Autosport.com has the story.

    Jenson Button says winning the Belgian Grand Prix is crucial if he is to remain in the hunt for the 2012 Formula 1 world championship.

    The McLaren driver was in stunning form at Spa-Francorchamps during qualifying, taking his first pole position in more than three years.

    But he admitted that the job was only half done, with a full 25 points required from the race if he is to mount a late challenge for a second title.

    “A lot of people ask me if I am still driving for championship,” he said.

    “It is a long shot. I am 80 points behind Fernando [Alonso], so I need to be on podium and finish ahead of him every race.

    “It is not easy, but this is a good start.

    “But a win is important tomorrow to fight for the championship.”

    After a recent run of sub-par qualifying results, Button said that he was unsure what sparked the turnaround that put him on pole for the first time as a McLaren driver.

    “It has been quite a long time since I got my last pole position, back in 2009 in Monaco, so it is pretty emotional,” he said.

    “[It is] so important to come back after such a long break and come back with such a good result.

    “This is as close to winning a grand prix for me since it has been so long.

    “We just got the balance right this morning. The car has been working really well all day and in the limited running we have had, every run the balance has been good.

    “The balance is to my liking, and I have a style that is difficult to have a car that works for me in qualifying. But when it does I get pole.”

  2. Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel has said that his Red Bull RB8 was not quick enough to make it into the top ten shootout. Autosport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel said his Red Bull was simply not fast enough to get into the top 10 after only taking 11th in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.

    The world champion missed out on a Q3 place by 0.012 seconds at Spa, and said nothing in particular had been wrong.

    “I was pretty happy with my lap, it was just not quick enough unfortunately,” he said.

    “I missed the last part of qualifying by such a little amount and that’s a shame, but that’s racing. It’s frustrating but it could be the other way around and you are in and somebody else is out.

    “But obviously there are no points today and the race is tomorrow.”

    He admitted his disappointing result came as a surprise as he had been comfortable with the car in practice.

    “I was quite surprised that this morning it felt pretty alright and this afternoon it just didn’t come together,” Vettel said.

    “The lap was clean, there were no mistakes, but it wasn’t quick enough.”

    His team-mate Mark Webber had similar sentiments after taking seventh. The Australian will lose five places due to a gearbox-change penalty.

    “I’m disappointed. I think that we would like to have been further up the grid, no question about it,” said Webber.

    “Not quick enough for us to challenge for the front row, and that obviously knocks the penalty around a little bit more. I would’ve liked to have been further up to take the sting off the penalty.

    “I was pretty happy with my lap. The maximum was P5 if I’d got the very most out of it.

    “I had some very good sections on the lap and then some other sections where I would’ve liked to have done a little bit better.

    “But I got the most out of what we had and at the moment that’s not enough.”

  3. Sebastian Vettel has been fined 10,000 Euro for conducting a practice start in the pitlane in final practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    The German had been summoned to see the stewards before qualifying because teams and drivers had been told that practice starts in the pits were outlawed for this weekend’s race at Spa.

    The FIA stewards elected to punish Vettel with a financial penalty for what they considered a breach of Article 30.13 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations

    The rule states: “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pitlane.”

    The stewards did suggest, however, that the penalty could have been worse if the team had not informed race director Charlie Whiting of the breach after it happened.

    A statement issued by the FIA said: “In mitigation of the penalty is the fact that the team and driver immediately realised their error and reported it to the race director.

    “The team also reported that the ‘lollypop man’ was performing this role for the first time.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  4. Japanese racer Kamui Kobayashi has admitted he was left completely by surprised to qualify in second position at Spa. Autosport.com has the story.

    Qualifying second for the Belgian Grand Prix was completely unexpected, according to Kamui Kobayashi.

    The Sauber driver secured the best starting spot of his Formula 1 career at Spa Francorchamps, his Q3 time good enough to put him on the front row next to polesitter Jenson Button.

    But Kobayashi admitted that while he was ecstatic with the result, it was an unexpected one.

    “Spa is one of our favourite tracks, but we didn’t expect to be second,” he said.

    “Normally we struggle in qualifying and in the race we are not really worried, but this is where we wanted to improve.

    “This is our favourite circuit, but we didn’t expect second.

    “I think we have great opportunity for tomorrow so this is really a good restart for the rest of the season. We need to be really strong in qualifying and in this break, the guys did some great work. We had a chat with them and we are happy to be here and confident. It is great.”

    Kobayashi says he is now focused on the race, and making the most of his good starting position.

    “I always focus on Sunday, not qualifying, so this is a good point but I want to focus more on tomorrow,” he added.

    “If we can get on podium tomorrow then that is something good.

    “We need to look at tyre management, we need to take a little bit of care, and we need to finish the race.”

  5. Williams driver Pastor Maldonado says third on grid shows Williams resurgence underway. Autosport.com has the story.

    Pastor Maldonado believes his third place on the Belgian Grand Prix proves Williams will be even stronger in the second part of the 2012 Formula 1 season.

    The Venezuelan driver has not scored a point since winning the Spanish GP – partly due to a string of incidents – but says he and Williams have worked hard to understand their problems.

    “We have been working so hard to understand the car for the second half of the season,” said Maldonado.

    “We were struggling this morning a bit with the set-up, but we know where to work with the car now.

    “We are happy we know the team can react. We are looking forward to making up for what we lost in the first part of the season.

    “We have tried hard to understand all of the problems we have had and we have been working hard analysing, so the spirit is high in the team.”

    Maldonado believes that he will be equally competitive in the race.

    “I was optimistic for the race,” he said. “Maybe this morning I was a bit worried [in practice], but I was adapting myself to the car and the conditions.

    “After qualifying one I saw the potential the car had so I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

  6. Romain Grosjean has backed his Lotus team’s decision to not run its double DRS device in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    With Friday’s practice heavily affected by the weather, the team decided against running the new system for qualifying and the race.

    And despite qualifying a disappointing ninth, having narrowly scraped out of Q1, Grosjean says it was the right call.

    “If yesterday we could have used it on intermediates, then maybe we would have raced it on one car,” he said.

    “But today it was the best choice to not run with it.”

    According to Grosjean, the lack of dry running also took its toll on his ability to learn on his first Formula 1 appearance at Spa since 2009 – which showed in the qualifying session.

    “It’s not quite what I wanted,” he said. “It was not the best qualifying session of the year, that’s true. It was difficult with the lack of running, especially when you’re a rookie here. Spa is a very difficult track.”

    Despite the fact that he will be starting in the thick of the traffic, Grosjean has also pledged to turn the tide on his ongoing run of lap one incidents at Spa.

    “The initial bit of the start will be crucial, and then everybody will brake at more or less the same place into La Source,” he said.

    “Then there is a long straight, so you can maybe use your KERS in a different way. It will be interesting.

    “But we know overtaking is quite easy here, so there is no reason to play everything on the first lap.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  7. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was unable to match his team-mate’s qualifying performance and will line up in eighth position. The Hungarian Grand Prix winner admitted he made a poor decision over the rear wing on his car. Autosport.com has the story.

    Lewis Hamilton blamed his decision to switch to an older rear wing for a “disastrous” Spa qualifying result.

    The McLaren driver described his eighth place in qualifying as ‘damage limitation’.

    Hamilton won last time out in Hungary but believes that his choice not to use McLaren’s new rear wing rules him out of contention for victory in Sunday’s race at Spa.

    Hamilton and the team made the decision to use the old wing after struggling in Saturday morning practice, believing that it would be faster in qualifying.

    However Jenson Button decided to stick with the new wing and took pole position.

    “It was a disaster for me, but we are still in the top 10 so it is damage limitation for me. It was literally all down to the rear wing,” Hamilton said.

    “I was told the difference in wings was not so great, so it is definitely a surprise. I was told that in qualifying my wing would be quicker but for some reason it wasn’t.

    “It would be great to be up there fighting for a one-two tomorrow but with the wing I have that is not going to happen. The quick cars will be quick in the race tomorrow.

    “Jenson’s wing is working perfectly for him. It’s great for him and I hope he gets maximum points tomorrow.”

    Hamilton said he got everything out of his McLaren in his chosen configuration.

    “Nothing happened on my lap, I got absolutely everything out of the car on all of the laps that I had generally,” he said.

    “The set-up might not be perfect but I can’t make up the time that I lose on the straights.”

  8. Pastor Maldonado has lost his third place on the Belgian Grand Prix grid after being penalised for blocking Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying.

    The stewards imposed a three-place grid penalty on the Williams driver, dropping him to sixth.

    The incident had taken place during Q1, with race control immediately announcing that it would be investigated.

    The decision is set to elevate Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen to third, behind Jenson Button and Kamui Kobayashi.

    Maldonado had declared his qualifying result a sign that Williams would have a much more competitive second half of the 2012 Formula 1 season.

    Source: Autosport.com

  9. Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg blames himself for his early exit in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Autosport.com has the details.

    Nico Rosberg admitted that it was probably his own fault that he ran out of time for a final Q1 lap in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.

    Already facing a five-place grid penalty after a morning gearbox failure, the Mercedes driver was only 18th fastest at Spa.

    Rosberg crossed the line moments too late to manage a last run in Q1, leaving him unable to respond after being pushed back outside the Q2 cut-off.

    “It was definitely not good,” said Rosberg.

    “To start off with the gearbox this morning just makes it all the more difficult.

    “Now a miscommunication, but it was probably more my fault. We just didn’t get it right and that’s it, 18th.

    “But either way I don’t think it would’ve changed all that much with a five-place grid penalty tomorrow.

    “We need to do a good strategy tomorrow and we’ll see if we can get some points, but it’s going to be difficult.”

    Rosberg’s team-mate Michael Schumacher was only 13th fastest.

    “I felt rather excited seeing my laptimes because I pulled out more than we had expected to do, so it was a good lap,” said Schumacher, who is taking part in his 300th grand prix weekend.

    “I was hoping and waiting for the message that it was going to be enough. I was waiting longer and longer. I was hoping it was good news, but then when it came I was obviously rather disappointed.”

    Schumacher said the Mercedes was simply not quick enough at Spa.

    “If you look at the middle sector we’re losing 1.1 seconds,” he said.

    “In the first and last sector we’re losing about two tenths in each of them.

    “So we’re much too slow in the middle sector. Generally if a car is not competitive that’s where you lack the pace.”

  10. Kimi Raikkonen has escaped a potential corner-cutting penalty following Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.

    The stewards were investigating whether the Lotus driver had gained an advantage by going beyond the track limits at Eau Rouge in Q3, but ruled he had not.

    “Although car #9 left the track at Turns 3 and 4 (not only on this lap but also on another lap in Q3) a detailed examination of telemetry and sector times clearly indicate there was no advantage gained because the exit speed was shown to be slower than on other laps where the car did not leave the track,” said a statement from the officials.

    Raikkonen was fourth-fastest in qualifying, but is set to move up to third following a blocking penalty for initial third-place man Pastor Maldonado.

    Source: Autosport.com

  11. Championship leader Fernando Alonso has commented that he cannot rely on rivals’ mistakes. Autosport.com has the details.

    Fernando Alonso says Ferrari cannot rely on mistakes from its rivals to hold on to the championship lead.

    The Spaniard is starting ahead of several of his closest title rivals in Belgium.

    Alonso qualified sixth but will gain a place from Pastor Maldonado’s grid penalty. Among his championship challengers, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were only seventh, eighth and 11th respectively, while Webber will receive a five-place gearbox-change penalty.

    Asked by AUTOSPORT if mistakes from his rivals would help him in the title race, Alonso said Ferrari had to improve its car rather than count on others underperforming.

    “I think the aim is to improve the car because we know one is the gearbox [Webber] and then maybe Hamilton not making the most of the car today,” he said.

    “Some circuits are better for some cars and some for others but on that narrow line we are too slow.

    “So if we want to win the championship we need to be quicker and improve the car.

    “That is what we have to do now and our maximum concentration and effort is to do so.”

    Alonso thinks a podium is the most he can achieve in the race, and will be satisfied to keep his title rivals behind.

    “I think realistically the podium is the maximum target for us,” he said.

    “The victory is out of reach I think because we were not quick in qualifying and the distance to Jenson [Button] is a little bit too much so we need to be honest with ourselves and maybe the podium is the maximum target.

    “The most important thing is to try and finish in front of the other drivers for the championship and we have a good opportunity because Hamilton, Webber and Vettel start behind us.

    “If we can maintain this tomorrow it will be a fantastic Sunday.”

  12. Lewis Hamilton had been in favour of the decision to switch to the higher-downforce rear wing in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix – despite the controversy that choice ultimately caused.

    Hamilton’s lack of straightline speed because of the wing left him unable to challenge McLaren team-mate Jenson Button for pole position and he ended up seventh. Afterwards he expressed his frustration on Twitter.

    Although McLaren concedes that it was a mistake to move away from the new low-downforce specification that Button used to such good effect, the team has revealed that everyone believed beforehand it was the right move.

    McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe said: “It is something we all discussed together. Those are quite big decisions, so everyone is consulted.

    “We rarely make a decision that everyone doesn’t agree with, because we make decisions based on rational thinking, rational arguments and, if you follow such a process, which is not an emotional one, you ought to reach a point where it is not a question of a vote, not a question of half thinking one thing and half thinking another and then disagreeing.

    “You will reach the same conclusions that it is the right verdict and that is exactly what happened to Lewis.”

    Speaking about the matter himself, Hamilton said: “In P3, I had some instability with the new wing that we tried. At the time, we had a relatively big gap between ourselves and the Red Bulls and the Ferrari, so we felt on our side of the garage that we should try something to fix it.

    “For us, it was to potentially go to the wing that we used in the last race. I was told… we believed that the gap between those two wings wasn’t so big but we proved ourselves wrong. It was obviously the wrong way to go but we made a decision as a team.”

    Lowe says that the decision to opt for a different downforce configuration was not a wild gamble – and that other drivers like Kimi Raikkonen made a similar choice.

    “It is a perfectly valid choice around here,” he said. “It is not as though it is some sort of outlandish gamble. It is one we had seriously considered before we came here as a perfectly valid configuration.

    “If you look at Raikkonen’s split of sector times and his speed with and without DRS he is in exactly the same place as Lewis, so there is no sense in which Lewis is on his own and picked a dud strategy.

    “It is a very valid strategy, to qualify and race around here. One of his principal competitors, Kimi, is running that same strategy and we will see where it gets us. The points are scored tomorrow.”

    Lowe also said he did not find it strange that Hamilton had taken to Twitter to vent his feelings about the situation.

    “I think in frustration at not getting pole position, which is always Lewis’ objective, it is natural to look at where we might have gone wrong,” he said. “We will be looking at what are the differences between him and Jenson and why couldn’t we get performance, which ought to be there on paper.”

    Hamilton’s comments on Twitter were later deleted.

    Source: Autosport.com

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