Sunday, 27 September 2009

Hamilton on top as Brawn struggle

Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix on pole after a poor session for Brawn GP saw Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button finish in 10th and 12th.

Barrichello, trailing Button by 14 points in the title race, was fifth fastest but crashed late on and drops five places after changing his gearbox.

Button failed to make the top 10 as the championship leader produced an error-strewn display to finish 12th fastest.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will share the front row, with Nico Rosberg third.

In fact, the Williams driver might have hoped for a better session had Barrichello's late crash into the wall not ended qualifying a minute early with the German on a flyer. Rosberg had earlier set the fastest time in the second session.

But that slight annoyance was nothing compared to the fate of Button and Barrichello, who had entered the weekend with high hopes following an upgrade package to their Brawns, which boasted new rear and front wings and a new diffuser.

It's a disastrous session for us. We underestimated the competition... (and) we'll have to see what we can recover on Sunday

Team boss Ross Brawn
Button, in particular, will again face questions over his ability to cope with the pressure of leading the drivers' championship with four races to go as two tentative runs during the second part of qualifying left him back on the sixth row.

"It's a disastrous session for us," admitted team boss Ross Brawn. "We underestimated the competition in second qualifying because we used one old set, then one new set, and didn't get the car balanced well on the new set.

"We were perilously close to losing both cars in that session. The shoot-out wasn't bad, looking at the fuel weights, but that topped it off for us.

"With Jenson dropping out of third qualifying, Rubens had the maximum chance to get some points on Jenson. We'll have to see what we can recover on Sunday."

It is the third time this season that Hamilton has secured pole, and the McLaren looked on the pace throughout qualifying having changed the chassis of his car in order to cure a wiring problem from Friday.

BBC SPORT'S FUEL-ADJUSTED GRID (with projected race first pit stops*)
1 Hamilton (lap 17 of 61)
2 Rosberg +0.553 (lap 16)
3 Vettel +0.617 (lap 14)
4 Webber +1.023 (lap 15)
5 Barrichello** +1.097 (lap 16)
6 Alonso +1.243 (lap 17)
7 Glock +1.289 (lap 17)
8 Kubica +1.511 (lap 19)
9 Heidfeld+1.752 (lap 14)
10 Kovalainen +1.759 (lap 19)
* Calculated on the weight of fuel left in cars after qualifying had finished ** Barrichello drops five places on the grid because of gearbox change
Full Singapore GP qualifying results
Analysis of fuel-adjusted grid
And the reigning world champion revealed he could have got even more out of the car, saying: "The out lap wasn't that bad actually, I had a 10-second window where I didn't have to push that much. I reckon we had another couple of tenths in it for sure.

"(But) it's absolutely fantastic, I'm very happy and very pleased for the team.

"We came with updates, as did everyone else, so we didn't know where we would be. Friday practice wasn't spectacular for me but I came in with a positive approach and big thanks to the guys, they worked up until 10am this morning rebuilding the car.

"I'm pleased to have done this for them. I'm feeling more comfortable in the car and we'll see what happens with the strategies."

Red Bull, too, will be happy with their pace, with Vettel second and Mark Webber fourth on the grid, but Williams's Rosberg showed arguably the most surprising pace, given his team had not expected to impress at Marina Bay.

"Going into qualifying, we weren't sure we would make it to Q3, but in Q2 it worked out fantastically," admitted Rosberg. "With the heavier fuel in Q3 it was a bit more difficult, but third on the grid is fantastic for us.

"Who knows, maybe we can even fight for a win very soon."

Fernando Alonso, winner here last year, will start from fifth as Renault look to put the recent controversy over Nelson Piquet Jr's deliberate crash here 12 months ago behind them.

Interview - top three in Singapore qualifying
"It was a fantastic result for us, we didn't expect to finish there," said the Spaniard.

"[But] I'm not sure we can get much more out of the car tomorrow. You never know though. If we finish the race it will be a good result."

The BMWs of Nick Heidfeld of Robert Kubica will start from seventh and eighth, behind Toyota's Timo Glock and ahead of McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen.

Elsewhere, Ferrari's fears that they would be off the pace were borne out when Kimi Raikkonen could only manage 13th, with team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella again betraying his lack of feel for his new car in finishing back in 18th.

And at the back of the grid, Adrian Sutil followed his front row qualifying last time out in Monza by dropping out of Q1 in 16th place, with the high downforce track clearly not suiting the Force India.

The German's team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi will start from the back of the grid, while Renault's Romain Grosjean also struggled after putting new brakes into his car for the session and, having crashed in first practice on Friday, dropped out in first qualifying alongside Jaime Alguersuari and Fisichella.

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