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Button grabs first pole at Imola
Alan Baldwin in Imola | April 24, 2004 19:54 IST
Britain's Jenson Button grabbed his and BAR's first pole position at the San Marino Grand Prix on Saturday to end Michael Schumacher's run of qualifying dominance.
Button lapped Ferrari's home circuit in one minute 19.753 seconds, the fastest time of the weekend, to pip six-times world champion Schumacher by 0.258 of a second.
BAR's first pole came before their 87th race after they entered Formula One in 1999.
By a remarkable coincidence, on a weekend when Formula One remembered the death of Brazilian world champion Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994, it was Honda's first pole since Senna in Canada in 1992.
"Fantastic. The car's been running strong all weekend. I think we've done a good job, we really have," said Button, seeking his third podium in a row on Sunday.
"I can't wait. Qualifying is one thing but winning a race is the real goal.
"It's the first time in my Formula One career that I've had nobody in front of me at the start. It's all down to me now," said the 24-year-old, whose last pole came in British Formula Three in 1999.
Button's previous best qualifying performance was third at Spa in Belgium for Williams in his 2000 debut season.
Ferrari's Schumacher had been on pole for the first three races of the season which he has also won.
"It's going to be a tight battle. It will be very interesting to see how the cars slot into the first corner," said the German, who has won the San Marino Grand Prix four times in the last five years.
Schumacher was quicker than Button through the first sector but a wobble in the second cost him dearly.
"The time I lost over that sector wouldn't have been enough anyway," he said. "He put in a very good lap. I anticipated they would go strongly here this weekend."
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was third fastest in a Williams and shares the second row of the grid with Ferrari's Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
Ralf Schumacher, Michael's younger brother who won at Imola in 2001 for Williams, was fifth quickest and starts alongside Renault's Spanish charger Fernando Alonso.
BAR's Takuma Sato filled the fourth row with Australian Mark Webber in a Jaguar.
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, yet to finish a race this season, will start from the back of the grid after suffering yet another engine problem.
A team spokeswoman said the team had decided to change Raikkonen's engine after his first qualifying run on Saturday, when he finished ninth quickest.
The Finn, championship runner-up last year after taking Schumacher down to the wire, went out for an installation lap to scrub his tyres but did not complete a second timed lap.
Raikkonen also started the last Bahrain Grand Prix from the back of the grid after an engine problem.
Sauber's Italian Giancarlo Fisichella will also start his home race at the back after being penalised for ignoring warning flags in morning practice. Fisichella did not take part in the second qualifying run.
Provisional starting grid for the San Marino Grand Prix after Saturday's qualifying:
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