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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 April 2006, 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK
Button snatches pole in Australia
Australian Grand Prix, 2 April. Start: 0500 BST

QUALIFYING TIMES
Jenson Button
1 J Button 1:25.229
2 G Fisichella 1:25.635
3 F Alonso 1:25.778
4 K Raikkonen 1:25.822
5 J Montoya 1:25.976
6 R Schumacher 1:26.612
7 M Webber 1:26.937
8 N Heidfeld 1:27.579
Britain's Jenson Button grabbed his third career pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The Honda driver set a time of one minute 25.229 seconds to beat Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella by 0.406 seconds.

World champion Fernando Alonso was third in his Renault while McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was fourth.

Michael Schumacher was eliminated in the second session and will start 10th on the grid while his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa spun off.

It was Button's first pole since last year's Canadian Grand Prix and the first pole for a full Honda team since 1968.

"The whole day's been manic with the weather," Button said. "Rain, traffic, accidents. It was mad for us trying to get a lap time in.

"We really struggled with grip. So to finally get this pole position is fantastic.

"Honda's done a fantastic job over the last few weeks and it's good to repay them with a pole position."

Alonso said he could have beaten Button had he not been held up on his best lap, but was nevertheless confident of taking his second win of the year, and extending his championship lead.

In race conditions I am confident we will be extremely competitive
Fernando Alonso

"I am pleased to be third because this is my best qualifying position so far this year," the Spaniard said.

"Even so, we still didn't achieve our maximum this afternoon because I had (Nick) Heidfeld's BMW in front of me during my quick lap and he made a mistake on turn 13.

"That meant I caught him very quickly and lost about half a second in the last two corners.

"The car felt very good, though, and I am pleased with the consistent handling balance.

"In race conditions I am confident we will be extremely competitive."

McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya ruined his chances of a late surge for pole when he spun with just two minutes remaining and finished fifth.

Toyota's Ralf Schumacher gave an improved performance to claim sixth, one ahead of local hero Mark Webber in his Williams.

Seven-time world champion Schumacher was caught out by rain and missed the cut by just 0.004secs.

Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher was well off the pace again

He was moved up one place because of a 10-place grid penalty for BMW-Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve, but could not explain his lack of pace.

"I can't really explain it," said the seven-time world champion. "We were just not fast enough.  

"If I knew the reasons why, we would have changed things before. I am not happy. Tomorrow is very hard to judge.  

"We need to find the speed or there's not a lot we can do. We need to change things. It will be very difficult."

Scotsman David Coulthard missed the final cut in his Red Bull, earning 11th place on the grid, while highly-rated rookie Nico Rosberg was down in 14th for Williams.

Morning rain dried up to leave ideal conditions for the first knock-out session of the afternoon.

That did not help rookie Yuji Ide, who ran wide twice in his Super Aguri car before spinning and bringing out the red flags following a calamitous three laps.

By that time only 10 drivers had set lap times, leaving 12 others just eight minutes to avoid the indignity of being among the first six eliminated.

Rubens Barrichello was a surprise victim of the session, continuing his troubles at Honda. The Brazilian will start 16th as he seeks his first points of the season so far.

The red flags were out again in the second session when Massa's first flying lap ended with his Ferrari backed into a tyre wall after suspension failure. He starts 15th.

With just five minutes left in the second session, the likes of Button and Webber had yet to register a lap, leaving them in danger of elimination.

But they both got their laps in just before a brief rain shower, which left Schumacher high and dry.


Qualifying times and grid positions for the Australian Grand Prix:

1. Jenson Button (GB) Honda, one minute, 25.229 seconds
2. Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault, 1:25.635
3. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault, 1:25.778
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes, 1:25.822
5. Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes, 1:25.976
6. Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota, 1:26.612
7. Mark Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth, 1:26.937
8. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber, 1:27.579
9. Jacques Villeneuve (Can) BMW Sauber, 1:29.239+
10. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota, no time
11. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari, 1:26.718*
12. David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Ferrari, 1:27.023*
13. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Cosworth, 1:27.219*
14. Christian Klien (Aut) Red Bull-Ferrari, 1:27.591*
15. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth, 1:29.422*
16. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari, no time*
17. Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda, 1:29.943**
18. Christijan Albers (Ned) Midland-Toyota, 1:30.226**
19. Scott Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:30.426**
20. Tiego Monteiro (Por) Midland-Toyota, 1:30.709**
21. Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 1:32.279 **
22. Yuji Ide (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 1:36.164**

+ = will start 19th on the grid after engine change

* = time set in second 15-minute elimination session; ** = time set in first 15-minute elimination session


WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC Five Live's David Croft



SEE ALSO
Button backs Barrichello recovery
31 Mar 06 |  Formula One
Davidson sets pace in Melbourne
31 Mar 06 |  Formula One


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