x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Qualifying disaster leaves Brawn reeling

Brawn endure a terrible session in Singapore as world championship leader Jenson Button qualifies in 12th.

Brawn's British driver Jenson Button looks at the monitors at the end of the third practice session. Button qualified only 12th on the grid.
Brawn's British driver Jenson Button looks at the monitors at the end of the third practice session. Button qualified only 12th on the grid.

Ross Brawn acknowledged his Brawn GP team had endured a "disastrous session" as Formula One world championship leader Jenson Button qualified only 12th for today's Singapore Grand Prix, with teammate and nearest rival Rubens Barrichello only two places further ahead on the grid.

While the world champion Lewis Hamilton was full of delight at claiming pole position in his McLaren-Mercedes, Button suffered from car set-up problems as he struggled for pace, while Barrichello was hit by a five-place grid penalty which knocked him back from fifth place. The Brazilian though compounded a miserable day for his team by crashing on his final lap of qualifying, and team principal Brawn said it had been a day to forget for the leaders of the constructors' championship.

"It was a disastrous session," he told the BBC. "We underestimated the competition in Q2 (qualifying two) and used one set of old tyres and then one new set and we didn't get the car balanced well on the new set. "We were perilously close to losing both cars in Q2. Q3 (final qualifying) wasn't bad when you see the fuel weights, but it topped off a bad session for us. "It's not a great day for the championship. We'll have to tough it out and try and see what we can recover tomorrow."

The Brawn GP crew were concerned by the state of Barrichello's gearbox prior to the start of qualifying and chose to change it. With it being only its third race and gearboxes being expected to last for four races at a time under regulations, the Brazilian was given the grid penalty. Brawn said of the decision: "We've been running a gearbox on the dyno at the factory in parallel and we saw some worrying signs when it got up to its third race."

The problems for the Brawn pair have opened the door for Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel to put himself back in the title hunt. The German qualified second and he is in prime position to claw back some of the 26 points by which he trails Button in the standings. gcaygill@thenational.ae