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Saturday, March 28, 2009

New team Brawn GP takes F1 pole in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Brawn GP became the first Formula One team in 39 years to take the pole position in its debut race when Jenson Button secured the spot for Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Button's time of 1 minute, 26.202 seconds Saturday edged teammate Rubens Barrichello by three tenths of a second, giving the F1 newcomers both positions on the front row.

It was the fourth pole of Button's career and completed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the England-based team, which was threatened with extinction when former owner Honda pulled out of the sport after the 2008 season.

Before former Ferrari strategist and Honda team principal Ross Brawn took over the team from the Japanese automaker, Button and Barrichello faced the prospect of looking for new jobs and watching this weekend's action on television.

"Going from not having a drive and no future in racing to putting it on pole here is just amazing," Button said. "This is a great moment, not the most important of the weekend, but a great start."

"This is where we deserve to be, after the difficult times we have had," the 29-year-old British driver added. "Roll on the season, I am so excited about this year."

The Brawn performance may be a welcome taste of novelty for F1 fans, but rival teams were less enthusiastic. The team is racing under appeal, with a protest over the design of its rear diffuser to be heard by the sport's governing body FIA after the Malaysian Grand Prix, jeopardizing any points gained in the season's first two GP races. Williams and Toyota are also subject to the appeal.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will start from third on the grid at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, ahead of BMW's Robert Kubica and Williams' Nico Rosberg. Toyota pair Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli qualified sixth and eighth respectively, but were sent to the back of the grid after stewards ruled the rear wings on their cars were too flexible.

Virgin Chairman Branson sits in the Brawn GP Formula One team area during a practice session at Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne

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