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Button ends long wait

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, September 1, 2012, Agencies:

McLaren driver claims pole position after a gap of three years

Jenson Button celebrated his 50th Formula One race for McLaren by ending a three-year wait and taking pole position in qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The pole was Button’s first since the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix, the year in which he won a memorable championship with Brawn GP, and his first at McLaren and at the majestic Spa circuit.

Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi put his Sauber on the front row, a career best for him and only the second time a Japanese driver has qualified so high on the grid, alongside the Briton with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in third place for Williams. “It’s been quite a long time since I got my last pole position,” grinned Button, who whooped with delight after being told he was ‘P1’ over the team radio, on a sunlit afternoon after heavy rain washed out Friday practice.

“It’s pretty emotional...it’s so important to come back after such a long break with a good result on Saturday,” added the Briton, referring to the August shutdown following the previous race in Hungary in July.

Button, who now has eight career poles to his credit, is only seventh in the championship and a massive 88 points adrift of Ferrari’s overall leader Fernando Alonso but has refused to give up hope.

The Briton has never won at Spa and nor has Alonso.

Alonso’s closest title rival, Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber, was seventh fastest but has a five place penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change. Kimi Raikkonen, the driver with the best record at Spa in recent years with four wins at the longest circuit on the calendar, qualified fourth for Lotus ahead of Sauber’s Mexican Sergio Perez.

Sauber’s form was an eye-opener, with Kobayashi only the second Japanese ever to start a Grand Prix on the front row. The other was Takuma Sato who qualified second for the 2004 European Grand Prix at Nuerburgring.

The Swiss team have not qualified on the front row this century, with their last -- and only second ever -- appearance at the sharpest end of the grid coming at the 1999 French Grand Prix with Frenchman Jean Alesi. Button’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton will start seventh, helped by Webber’s penalty. Red Bull’s double world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to make the final phase of qualifying but will start 10th due to his team-mate’s demotion to 12th.

Further back, there was dismay for Mercedes who saw Nico Rosberg fail to get through the first session. The German will start 23rd due to a five place penalty. His team-mate Michael Schumacher, celebrating his 300th Grand Prix at the circuit where he made his debut in 1991, starts 13th.

Paul di Resta shines

Sahara Force India’s Paul di Resta qualified tenth on the grid while team-mate Nico Hulkenberg will start in the 12th position.

However, the Indian team which is desperate to improve its position in the Constructors’ championship will have to deliver an outstanding race since their close rivals Sauber and Williams have their cars ahead on the grid.


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