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Saturday Qualifying
BAR Honda continued its season-opening impressive form, both drivers putting in a strong final qualifying performance. Jacques Villeneuve qualified his BAR Honda in sixth position for tomorrow's grid of the Australian Grand Prix to start the race from the third row while team-mate Jenson Button will line up directly behind him in eighth place.

Saturday Qually
Saturday Qually


Button topped the times for the first time in his F1 career by setting a blistering 1m27.415s in the first 45-minute session this morning. The Brit remained at the top of the time sheets until former team-mate Jarno Trulli (Renault) displaced him with just five minutes to go. Villeneuve suffered from a hydraulics problem towards the end of the first session so was unable to run during the second, finishing 13th overall. The team corrected the problem on the rear end of the car and the Canadian managed to run the entire 15-minute warm up session, just prior to final qualifying at 1400 hours.

Saturday morning's cool and overcast weather conditions lifted and by the time Button took to the track for his one flying lap the blue skies and sunshine had returned. The BAR Honda driver went out 16th and set the fifth fastest time of 1m28.682s, the 23 year old driver finally qualifying in eighth place after all qualifying runs were completed. Team-mate Villeneuve was out on track a few minutes later and set a time of 1m28.420s, ending up sixth for the start of tomorrow's race.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello took the front row while Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and Sauber's Heinz-Harald Frentzen qualified third and fourth. 2002 team-mates Olivier Panis (Toyota) and BAR Honda's Jacques Villeneuve will line up in fifth and sixth place respectively. The Minardi pairing of Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen did not record a time so both drivers will start from pit lane.

Saturday Qually
Saturday Qually


In complete contrast to last season, the grid doesn't necessarily reflect the competitiveness of the various cars and drivers. Whereas yesterday the emphasis was purely on speed, today's new one lap qualifying is now an integral part of the overall race strategy and therefore not as one dimensional as yesterday. In addition, there will be a distinct lack of post-qualifying activity - this time last year the teams would have been busy preparing the cars for warm up and the race, but due to the new regulations this year sees comparative calm in the paddock, as cars are locked away in parc ferme until Sunday morning.

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"Having started the weekend with a troubled session I consider today's result to be very good. The team did a great job preparing the cars in time and the drivers pushed hard to secure sixth and eighth on the grid. Obviously we don't know what strategy all the other teams are on for the race, but starting from the third and fourth row puts us in a strong position. As a counter measure to yesterday morning's problem both drivers are using the engine we ran for the majority our winter test programme."

Jacques Villeneuve [6th]
"6th position is a good place to start the race. Our strategy is sound and very realistic so we're still looking good for tomorrow; we should be up there at the front for the battle. I'm just disappointed with my lap because it wasn't very special. After this morning's practice, reliability will be a bit of a worry but we can still fight for the podium so that's what we have to try and do."

Jenson Button [8th]
"It's difficult to know where we stand compared with everybody else but I'm pretty happy with 8th position. It's a good place to be starting the first race of the season. We weren't able to get many laps in during practice this morning but the car was working quite well then nonetheless. We had the 15-minute warm-up when the wind picked up and it felt like a completely different car to drive in qualifying; it felt very twitchy. It wasn't a great lap and like everyone else there was room for improvement. We're starting from a points-scoring position though so I'm still feeling confident for the race."


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