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Rubens on pole after rain causes havoc

October 17th, 2009

brawnBrazilian GP starting grid


2. WEBBER Red Bull

3. SUTIL Force India

4. TRULLI Toyota

5. RAIKKONEN Ferrari

6. BUEMI Toro Rosso

7. ROSBERG Williams


9. NAKAJIMA Williams

10. ALONSO Renault

11. KOBAYASHI Toyota

12. ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso

13. GROSJEAN Renault

14. BUTTON Brawn

15. LIUZZI Force India

16. VETTEL Red Bull


18. HAMILTON McLaren


20. FISICHELLA Ferrari

Title hopeful Rubens Barrichello picked the perfect moment to claim his first pole for five years for his home Brazilian Grand Prix after brilliantly emerging on top of an amazing qualifying session massively prolonged by torrential rain.

The home favourite made sure he fully capitalised on Brawn team-mate and points leader Jenson Button’s disastrous afternoon, the Briton’s hopes of clinching the title this weekend suffering a huge blow after he qualified down in 14th.

Button, who needs a third place finish to be sure of avoiding a nerve-jangling final-race showdown in Abu Dhabi, paid the price for not switching to intermediate tyres in improving conditions towards the end of Q2 and couldn’t find enough speed on his full-wet rubber to make the top 10.

The third title contender Sebastian Vettel meanwhile – who must finish at least second on Sunday to have any chance of staying in the hunt going into the final race – suffered what is surely a terminal setback after he fared even worse than Button and missed Q2 altogether, the German winding up two places further back.

Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, however, enjoyed far better fortune in the tough conditions and claimed a place alongside Barrichello on the front row, with Adrian Sutil again starring on a wet track to net a fine third for Force India.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was fourth, while Kimi Raikkonen made a late improvement to secure fifth for Ferrari ahead of the impressive Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso).

Button and Vettel’s respective struggles were the headline stories from a remarkable qualifying session which was eventually completed almost three hours after Q1 had initially got underway.

The abysmal wet conditions that had struck final practice earlier in the day continued into the start of the scheduled hour-long session and although qualifying did get going on time it was clear from the outset how tough conditions were with pools of standing water on the circuit and several rivers forming on the edge of corners.

It only took four minutes for a driver to demonstrate how difficult things were going to be when Giancarlo Fisichella aquaplaned at the bottom of the Senna S and stalled his Ferrari on the racing line.

The stranded Ferrari brought out the red flag and led to a first 14-minute delay as race control waited for the rain to ease slightly and the track to become driveable again.

When Q1 did eventually resume, Vettel – who had set the initial pace in the heavy rain of the opening minutes – struggled badly for speed and tumbled down the order, RBR having opted to keep its RB5 running with dry-weather downforce settings in anticipation of a dry race.

However, after failing to set a quick enough time with his early Q2 laps after getting caught up in traffic and the inevitable spray, Vettel lost his window of opportunity as the rain began to intensify again towards the end of the 20 minutes.

Both McLarens were experiencing similar problems and joined Vettel in shock Q1 eliminations, the MP4-24’s inherent downforce problems fully exposed once more in the wet.

The worsening conditions meant the start of the second session was delayed by 23 minutes but no sooner had that got going when Force India’s Tonio Liuzzi aquaplaned on the main straight and, after sliding along the pit wall, careered backwards into a heavy impact with the tyre barriers.

The crash ripped the car’s two rear wheels off and littered debris across the run-off area, prompting race control to again throw the red flag with the conditions clearly over the edge again.

This gave way to the longest delay of the lot – drivers and teams were forced to wait in their garages for a full 70-minutes as officials again waited for the worst of the horrendous weather to pass.

And just as when it looked in doubt that qualifying would be re-started at all, the skies finally improved and Q2 resumed in earnest.

After drivers completed their opening forays on the full-wet tyres, Q1 pacesetter Nico Rosberg was the first to switch to the intermediate rubber as a drier line began to appear and immediately began lapping quicker.

Most drivers soon followed suit, expect Button who missed the opportunity to do so and, having not set a quick enough time on the full wets beforehand, was never going to find enough time in the improving conditions to make the top 10 and duly dropped out in 14th.

Main title rival Barrichello crucially made it through to Q3 by the skin of his teeth in 10th position and then set about making sure he got as close to the front as possible to give himself the best chance of outscoring Button by the required five points if he is to stay in the title hunt.

With the track conditions continuing to improve, all 10 cars stayed out on track for the whole of Q3 which ensured provisional pole changed hands almost by the second.

Barrichello twice hit the front, but looked set to be denied by a final 1m19.668s effort from Webber before the local hero sent the passionate local crowd into raptures with a final lap of his own of 1m19.576s

Sutil also found late speed to secure an equally brilliant third, with Raikkonen also improving late on to bump Buemi out of fifth.

Rosberg had looked a good bet to claim Williams’s first pole for over four years after topping the disjointed Q1 and Q2, but had to settle for seventh ahead of BMW’s Robert Kubica.

The second Williams of Kazuki Nakajima will start ninth ahead of more regular Q3 runner Fernando Alonso (Renault).

Kamui Kobayashi impressively kept his head in the elongated session to qualify a fine 11th on his Formula 1 debut for Toyota, indeed the stand-in for Timo Glock could even of had a shot of making Q3 had he not got out of shape through the Curva do Sol on his final lap.

The Japanese will start alongside fellow rookie Jaime Alguersuari who claimed the best grid position of his short career with a fine 12th in the second STR, with fellow rookie Romain Grosjean (Renault) to start one place back.

Button currently starts two places ahead of Vettel, but should Liuzzi require a gearbox change following his nasty accident then the two title rivals could start their race fightbacks right next to each other on the grid.

Like Heikki Kovalainen and world champion Lewis Hamilton, BMW’s Nick Heidfeld was another to struggle in the conditions and the German shares the back row with Fisichella who could take no further part in qualifying after his early spin.

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