| Jenson Button after securing pole position in Melbourne on Saturday. (AFP)
Melbourne: Jenson Button on Saturday earned the third Formula One pole position of his career after recording the fastest time in qualifying for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
It was the first pole since last year’s Canadian GP for the Honda driver, who is yet to win a race in more than 100 GPs.
It was also the first pole for a full Honda team since 1968, although the Japanese motor company has shared many as an engine supplier.
“We really struggled with the grip. So to finally get this pole position is fantastic,” button said. “Honda’s done a fantastic job over the last few weeks and it’s good to repay them with a pole position.”
Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella, who won two weeks ago at Malaysia, and world champion Fernando Alonso, winner of the opening race at Bahrain, were second and third, respectively.
“Second on the grid. It’s a good opportunity to do well in the race again,” said Fisichella, who won last year’s Australian GP from pole position.
Alonso was content with third. “It is my best qualifying of the year and hopefully I can try for the win,” the Spaniard said. “It’s better to be third than further back.”
Button’s time was 1:25.229 seconds on the 5.3km Albert Park Circuit.
He said the Melbourne weather had made qualifying a little chaotic. It was dry on Friday, cool and wet on Saturday morning, then cool and dry on Saturday afternoon.
“Manic. The whole day’s been manic with the weather,” Button said. “Rain, traffic, accidents. It was a hectic session. It was mad for us trying to get a lap time in.”
The two red flags that stopped the sessions did not help the situation, nor did the increased traffic on the track when the sessions resumed, as cars hurried to get qualifying times in.
“With every red flag there is completely panic in the garage,” Alonso said. “Outside it is nice to see, but inside it is quite complex.”
Fisichella’s time was 1:25.635 with Alonso at 1:25.778.
McLaren-Mercedes drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya were fourth and fifth, respectively, with Ralf Schumacher sixth in a Toyota.
It was a bleak day for Ferrari. Michael Schumacher, who was trying to break career pole positions record he shares with Ayrton Senna at 65, did not make it to the final session. He was eliminated by being among the six slowest drivers of the second session.
His time of 1:26.718 was just behind the last qualifier, Jarno Trulli of Toyota in 1:26.327.
Schumacher has won the Australian GP four times between 2000 and 2004, and had pole position at Bahrain this season, when he finished second. Since then, his times have slipped ' he came in sixth at the second race and now will start from 11th on the grid at Melbourne.
His new teammate, Felipe Massa, caused a stoppage to the second session when he slid off the track and went into the padding. Massa was second in qualifying in his first race for Ferrari at Bahrain.
Alonso leads the series standings with 18 points from two races, with seven-time champion Schumacher and Button next with 11. Fisichella has 10 points.
The weather was still cool in the afternoon, although early rains had slowed practice in the mornings and some of the drivers did not go all out.
Montoya and Raikkonen completed just one fast lap and waited out the rest of the morning session on Saturday. In the afternoon, they went out and had the top two times in the first 15-minute session, which saw former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, now with Honda, eliminated among the six slowest.