Button 'ecstatic' about fifth place

Jenson Button ended qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix as the 'best of the rest' behind the dominant Ferrari-McLaren battle, the young Englishman placing his Williams-BMW fifth on the grid despite having never raced at Suzuka before

Button 'ecstatic' about fifth place

Button, who will be replaced at Williams by CART star Juan Montoya next season, outqualified his more experienced team-mate Ralf Schumacher for the sixth time in his rookie year, beating the German by 0.16s.

"I'm ecstatic!" Button enthused. "It's good to come to somewhere like Suzuka and qualify fifth on my first time at the track. I really have to thank the mechanics and the team because they did a great job on the car."

The 20-year-old had struggled to learn the circuit during the first practice sessions, but made such rapid progress that by the Saturday morning sessions only Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher were ahead of him. Although unable to match that showing in qualifying, he still came close to snatching fourth from Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello.

However, on several occasions this season Button has qualified strongly only for his inexperience to tell in the races. He is keen to avoid a repeat of that scenario in Japan.

"I can't celebrate yet," he insisted. "I haven't finished the last two races so I have to make sure I do here. Yesterday it looked like it was going to be difficult, I was about 1.5s off Ralf in practice but today it all came together and I'm happy."

Williams should secure third place in the constructors' championship this weekend. The team is 14 points ahead of fourth-placed Benetton, but whereas Button and Schumacher will start from row three tomorrow, the Benettons of Alex Wurz and Giancarlo Fisichella are down on row six after qualifying. Ironically, Button will be driving for Benetton in 2001 when Montoya comes in to partner Schumacher.

Click here for full qualifying results from Suzuka.

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