Spa Qualifying: Button defies the odds and takes his first pole for McLaren

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 1 September 2012.

Jenson Button powers through Eau Rouge on his way to scoring his first ever pole position as a McLaren driver

Sep.1 (GP247) Take the form book and rip it to shreds! Qualifying for the Belgium Grand Prix, round 12 of the 2012 F1 world championship, as Spa-Francorchamps hosts one of the most unlikely grids in memory with Jenson Button taking pole, from Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi second and third place going to Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.

(L to R): Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber, pole sitter Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams celebrate in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 1 September 2012.Button found form just at the right time, he lies over 80 points adrift in the championship points standings and needs to maximise all nine remaining races. He made no mistake as he produced a series of fine laps, two out of the top drawer in Q3 to claim his first pole as a McLaren driver and his first top grid spot start since his championship year.

“It’s been quite a long time since my last pole position back in 2009. It’s been pretty emotional. Sundays have been good over the last few years but not so much Saturdays. It’s been good to come back after such a long break and to do well on the Saturday,” said Button.

Kobayashi relished his best qualifying performance, becoming the first Japanese driver to start from the front row since Takuma Sato started from second, in the European GP at the Nurburgring in 2004.  ‘Taki’ said afterwards, “It was a great qualifying for me. Yesterday in practice, we really did struggle a lot but this morning, we improved. We had good confidence in [our chances at] Spa. We expected a good weekend, but not to be second in qualifying. We expected a strong result, so we have a good chance in the race.”

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 1 September 2012.When Maldonado stays out of trouble (although at Spa he was again involved in an incident, this time with Nico Hulkenberg) he tends to be quite brilliant, and again he showed how good he really is.

He said afterwards, “We’ve been working so hard even in the break to try to understand all the problems we had and to solve them for the second half of the season. We understood where to work with the car. This has meant we are competitive.”

Qualifying on a bright sunny day in Belgium was filled with surprises, first of which was the failure of Nico Rosberg to progress beyond Q1 in his Mercedes, his plight not helped by the fact that he only did five laps in the dry during  FP3 earlier in the day which resulted in a gearbox change and a five place grid penalty.

Not long after Q2 claimed some huge scalps, including last year’s winner and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. Other big hitters who found themselves taking an early shower were: Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari) while Bruno Senna (Williams) and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) would be scratching their heads wondering how their teammates got the better of them.

Pole sitter Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren celebrates in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 1 September 2012.At the sharp end of proceedings pre-race favourites Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton simply ran out of ammunition when it mattered. Alonso and Raikkonen looked particularly racey up until Q3, but then their challenges faded.

Raikkonen, who has won four times before at Spa, will start from fourth on the grid, with Alonso directly behind him, seeking his first ever F1 win at Spa, sixth on the grid.

Splitting the two world former world champions, and heading up the third row, will be Sergio Perez who also took advantage of the C31’s strong pace around Spa, to set the fifth best time.

What a difference a year makes, ask Red Bull who last year qualified first and third, and went on to dominate the race in Belgium. This year Vettel was an early casualty, while Mark Webber managed the seventh best time but will start from 12th – due to a five place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.

Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31. Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 1 September 2012.No Red Bull in the top ten on the grid is a rarity that will certainly irk the world champions who will take comfort in the fact that a grid place at Spa is perhaps not as important as at most other places they race at.

Webber said, “I think we’d have liked to have been further up the grid, we weren’t fast enough to challenge for the front row. I’d have liked to have been further up to take the sting out of the penalty. In general I think I got enough out of what we have, which at the moment is not enough.”

Hamilton, winner last time out in Hungary, was expected to be the better of the two McLaren drivers at Spa but the script did not go as planned for the 2008 world champion who crashed out of the race last year.

“It has not been a great qualifying session for me. We opted to use an old wing this weekend. After P3, the new one wasn’t feeling so great. We went to the old wing and it was an awful lot slower. I’ll just have to do the best I can. Well done to Jenson, It was a great start for the second part of the season for him. I will try and do as best I can to back Jenson up tomorrow,” said Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20. Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 1 September 2012.Romain Grosjean was unable to match his more experienced Lotus teammate, as he has on several previous occasions, setting the ninth best time and will thus start from eighth on the grid thanks to Webber’s demotion.

Force India’s Paul Di Resta was tenth fastest in the session and will start ninth; he summed up his afternoon, “I think we would have taken that coming into the weekend, this morning I was quite surprised where we were running in the top 10. We’ve put ourselves in the position to fight for points in the race tomorrow. It’s very clear where our car struggles on this track, we’re about a sector off in the middle sector, we’re struggling for balance. That’s all we’ve got.”

Next up was Vettel (11th), Hulkenberg (12th), Schumacher (13th), and Massa (14th)…

A final word to McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh: “Jenson did a great lap. He struggled a bit this morning, but drove with such assurance during qualifying. It’s super for him. It’s been difficult here for everyone, not running yesterday, but Jenson has kept calm and done a fantastic job. I think he’s in very good shape for tomorrow.”

Note: After this report was written Maldonado was handed a three place grid penalty for blocking. Read more here>>>

Subbed by AJN.

Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying – Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:49.250 1:47.654 1:47.573 14
2 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.686 1:48.569 1:47.871 18
3 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:48.993 1:48.780 1:47.893 20
4 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:49.546 1:48.414 1:48.205 14
5 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.642 1:47.980 1:48.219 16
6 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:49.401 1:48.598 1:48.313 15
7 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:49.859 1:48.546 1:48.392 13
8 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:49.605 1:48.563 1:48.394 16
9 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:50.126 1:48.714 1:48.538 18
10 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:50.033 1:48.729 1:48.890 19
11 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:49.722 1:48.792 12
12 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:49.362 1:48.855 13
13 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:49.742 1:49.081 14
14 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:49.588 1:49.147 13
15 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:49.763 1:49.354 13
16 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:49.572 1:49.543 13
17 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:49.958 1:50.088 15
18 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:50.181 10
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:51.739 7
20 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:51.967 6
21 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:52.336 8
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:53.030 6
23 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:53.493 6
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:54.989 8
Q1 107% Time 1:56.622

Note – Webber and Rosberg drop five grid places for unscheduled gearbox changes.


  • McLaren Fan

    The spectacular lap, plus 2 others good enough for pole.
    1st pole for McLaren by Jenson.
    Looking very strong for the race.
    Kamui Kobayashi What a super effort.
    Maldanardo still under investigation.
    Vettel who?

  • kaka007

    Jenson button was a li’l bit ahead of the rest
    And cannot blame any driver today, all drivers performed excellently apart from massa and senna..

  • kaka007

    Well done maldonado…
    but, if you are not ready to finish the race and gonna crash, please don’t take out other drivers with you.. happy journey maldo
    He is really a supersonic missile ready to ‘explode’ at any moment

  • f1 fan

    Button and Kamui beware maldonado is back !!!

  • f1 fan

    hope iceman wins!!!

  • kaka007

    supporting ICEMAN here.. but dnt know about his car, it was only 13th fastest in both sectors 1 & 3.. it was in 2nd sector he & grosjean are finding some sort of speed.. and the race is button’s to lose

  • Butterfly

    This is how McLaren will never win another WDC again. Lewis said on his Twitter account that Jenson had the new rear-wing which gave him the advantage.

    Question: If Lewis is the closest to Fernando, why is Jenson using the new wing and not Lewis?

    Truly retarded team management over there…

  • kaka007

    hamilton said he decided not to do so……

  • kaka007

    by the way hamilton’s side of garage is to be blamed here not hamilton.. they should have had more insights into the new wing

  • hillside

    everybody will behave on the first turn just avoid Pestor

  • Butterfly

    Pastor got 3-place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg, he now starts 6th.

  • Butterfly

    The clean line contains:
    1. Button
    3. Raikkonen
    5. Alonso
    7. Hamilton
    9. Vettel

    That’s five Champions in one line.

  • kaka007

    i didn’t notice that. that was a nice observation and i’m sure after the 1st corner, alonso would be leading due to that ferrari’s superior grid launch

  • Butterfly


    I didn’t think of that, that’s a nice fantasy you got there.

    Alonso could be taken out before the first corner.

  • McLaren Fan

    He just can’t help himself can he naughty boy again.

    1 September, 2012 at 7:47 pm
    Pastor got 3-place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg, he now starts 6th.

  • kaka007

    And guess what kimi escapes penalty for cutting corners 3 & 4 during both his q3 runs. escaped the penalty coz he didn’t gain an advantage , in fact that’s why he was slower than expected

  • Lauda Fan

    Button! Does it just when he needed it most. Gawd I hope he WINS!

  • Chris

    Vettel Starts on 10th on the Dirty side @Butterfly
    But the 1st corner is the Main one every one needs to Watch out especially as we saw last year
    It was a great lap from Button almost a Stellar lap that was way too Much for other Drivers to achieve
    I was Clearly Disappointed with Mclaren and Redbull Teams to be honest
    Why Lewis didn’t have the rear wing and What RBR is doing it seems they didn’t bring any updates apart from Minor ones or their Updates wasn’t working
    If Button wins this one then He will have 101 points in the table which makes the Life of Alonso some what easy for couple of races

  • Butterfly


    My mistake. Still, 4 Champs in a row.

  • Chris

    I’m still counting on Kimi even JB has the Power