The Honda Racing F1 Team is celebrating in Melbourne today after Jenson Button delivered the team’s first pole position of the 2006 season at the end of a tumultuous qualifying session for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix. Jenson was “shaking with excitement” after snatching pole in the most frenzied session yet under the new knock-out system. Two red flags and a sudden shower had made the track action even more frantic than usual and Jenson delivered a flying lap when it mattered most to achieve the third pole of his career.
There were a few surprise exits early in the session as the red flags wreaked havoc. Unfortunately Rubens Barrichello was one such casualty after the first session was restarted and the entire field attempted to set a flying lap in the closing minutes. A frustrated Rubens, who had been having a good weekend up until that point, was unable to achieve a clean lap unhindered by traffic and qualified a disappointing 17th.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be on pole here after such a manic qualifying
session for everybody. With two red flags and the rain shower half way through,
it was very difficult to stay calm and get our thoughts together. That’s exactly
what we did though and I’m so thrilled for the team. This is a very special
moment for everyone in Honda as it’s the first pole since they returned to
works team status. I know all eyes will be on us for tomorrow but we didn’t
get much running done in race trim today. We know we’re quick over a lap but
we will only know how competitive we really are when we leave the grid tomorrow.
All we can do now is give it our very best shot, aim for a faultless race
and make the most of every situation.”
“I’m obviously very disappointed with how qualifying went for me today because
everything was running much more smoothly for us and the team have done a good
job all weekend. At the end of the day, I just lost out to traffic after the
restart in the first session. We have a tough mountain to climb tomorrow but
we’ll see what we can do to challenge for points nonetheless.”
DE FERRAN, SPORTING DIRECTOR
“We are absolutely delighted that Jenson is on pole for the first time this season. Both car and engine were working well as a result of some changes we made overnight and he pulled out all the stops to produced a fantastic lap. However, all three sessions were nervewracking to say the least and at no point did we feel entirely comfortable with our position. It all started with the red flag in the first session, which unfortunately caught Rubens out on his new tyre run. Subsequently, his best lap was ruined by traffic and he ran out of time. Disappointing, but we know he has the pace to have a good race tomorrow. The excitement continued with yet another red flag prior to Jenson setting a time at all, but thankfully he was able to get a clear enough gap before it started sprinkling in the dying minutes of the session. That weather uncertainty pushed us into setting a lap time early in the third session, and once it was clear that there was no longer the threat of rain, we focused on getting Jenson into clear air for his last new tyres. The rest is history! Obviously this is the best possible position to be in going into the race but let’s see what tomorrow brings!”
NAKAMOTO, ENGINEERING DIRECTOR,
HONDA RACING DEVELOPMENT
“Well done to Jenson for an excellent qualifying session. He reeled off some consistently quick laps before putting in a fantastic effort for his pole position. Rubens was unlucky to get stuck behind a slower car in the first qualifying session but still has every chance of a good race tomorrow. Both engines have been fine, and we’re excited about tomorrow’s race.”