SEPANG, April 4 – Jenson Button pushed his Brawn GP to a second successive pole position on Saturday, topping the times during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Briton swept around the 5.5 kilometre (3.4 mile) Sepang circuit in one minute 35.181 seconds ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1:35.273) to burn off his rivals in an eventful hour-long qualifying.
It was his second straight pole after Australia last weekend which he went on to win in Brawn’s maiden race, and only the fifth in his nine years as a Formula One driver.
But while Button was ecstatic, there was despair for last year’s pole sitter Felipe Massa, who only managed 16th in his Ferrari during hot and humid, but dry, conditions.
And McLaren’s miserable weekend continued with world champion Lewis Hamilton starting from 12th on the grid and his teammate Heikki Kovalainen 14th.
Third fastest was Sebastien Vettel in his Red Bull but he is carrying a 10-place grid penalty from the Australian Grand Prix after his collision there with Robert Kubica and so lines up Sunday in 13th.
Button’s teammate Rubens Barrichello was fourth quickest but he too has a grid penalty – five places for changing his gearbox – so is relegated to ninth.
Therefore, Timo Glock in the other Toyota will be third alongside Nico Rosberg in his Williams.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, last year’s winner, is behind them alongside another former world champion, Fernando Alonso in his Renault.
"It is not easy to get one pole position but to have two on the trot, I’ve never done that before," Button said after raising the bar on his final flying lap.
"It shows that the car works on different circuits in all conditions. On Saturday we struggled a bit with the balance of the car and it was difficult but we made changes overnight and it improved a lot.
"I feel very comfortable in the car and I’m excited about Sunday."
Italy’s Trulli is looming as his chief threat in the Toyota, which, like the Brawn and Williams, is using the controversial rear diffusers to make the car more aerodynamic.
BMW Sauber protested at their use Saturday, claiming they are contrary to the rules, giving a lap-time benefit of up to 0.5 seconds, but it was rejected.
A smiliar protest was lodged by Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull and BMW Sauber in Melbourne, which was also thrown out with an appeal to be heard later this month.
"The car is good but I didn’t expect to be where I am," said Trulli, "The team have done a great job and got everything spot on."
The big surprise was the failure of Massa to reach the third and final stage of the knockout qualifying format.
The Brazilian, who was third in the morning’s final free practice session, was well off the pace when it mattered, managing only 1:35.642 having completed just four laps.
"The team thought it was enough to be inside the top 15 and maybe I thought as well, to be honest, because when I got back to the pits I was fourth," he said.
"I stayed in the top seven for a while, but then when I started to drop it was impossible to go out again because there was no time to do another lap."
Hamilton also had a day to forget as he comes to terms with the scandal last weekend in Australia in which he was forced to apologise for lying about Trulli overtaking him during the Australian Grand Prix.
"Nothing has changed since the last race and it was as tough as ever," he said.
Qualifying took place with only McLaren and Toro Rosso using the same engines they had in Melbourne as all the other teams elected for new ones.
Drivers are allowed to use eight engines over the course of the season.