Qual: Button's first pole

It was a day of firsts. Jenson Button took the first pole position of his Formula 1 career, as did his team BAR. It was a works Honda engine's first pole since Ayrton Senna started from the front in the 1992 Canadian Grand Prix. It is also the first time that a Michelin runner, indeed anyone, will have started from pole other than Michael Schumacher this year

Button's 1m19.753s lap was perfect, by his own admission, and he squeezed as much as was possible from the ever-improving 006 chassis. By contrast, Schumacher under pressure to beat the Englishman's target, made a mistake over the kerbs at the Variante Alta chicane having been quicker than Button in the first sector.

The world champion's awesome run through Acque Minerale and over the kerbs at the final chicane, countered the damage from his run over the grass, but in the end he was simply beaten by Button. "Jenson put in a really good lap so it was all-or-nothing," he admitted afterwards. "I tried very hard and I just overdid it a bit. Actually I was lucky not to go off the circuit and spin."

Button was over the moon. "Fantastic," he declared. "The car's been running strong all weekend and we've done a good job. It was a great lap and I enjoyed it very much.

"In pre-qualifying I had less grip than I'd expected, but in proper qualifying it was all there. There weren't any mistakes, so I'm very happy. We were lacking in qualifying a little bit - I don't know why - but here we've obviously resolved that problem. I can't wait for tomorrow. Winning a race is the ultimate goal, and obviously that's going to be tougher than getting pole. It's all down to me now."

Juan Pablo Montoya was third fastest. The Williams team removed the fuel from the Colombian's car before his first run, which allowed him to set fastest time and put him last on the road in the important session. But new tyres on his qualifying run took away his speed and he could not match the top two.

Rubens Barrichello's form has been oddly distant this weekend, and again, even with Schumacher's mistake, the Brazilian was over four tenths slower than his team-mate. Ralf Schumacher was fifth for Williams after a steady, if unspectacular run which sees him start behind Montoya for the first time at Imola. While Fernando Alonso's Renault, complete with B-spec engine, will start sixth.

The Spaniard was surprised to be so far up the grid: "It was a good lap. We didn't change the fuel load between the qualifying sessions and I improved my lap time by 0.9s! The car feels constant through a run and I think we have a good chance to score points tomorrow."

BAR-Honda's Takuma Sato's performance was clearly overshadowed by that of his team-mate, and it could be that the Japanese driver will also be disappointed to have run wide on the exit of Rivazza Two - ending up some 1.160s slower than Button.

Mark Webber hauled the Jaguar R5 up to eighth on the grid after a weekend where he has looked nowhere near achieving such a position. Behind him were Jarno Trulli, Cristiano da Matta and David Coulthard's McLaren all covered by less than 0.2s.

Felipe Massa ended up best of the Sauber drivers in 12th after team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, who had pre-qualified an excellent sixth fastest, failed to materialise in the final hour due to a technical problem.

Olivier Panis was 13th ahead of Jaguar rookie Christian Klien while Giorgio Pantano won the Cosworth battle after Jordan team-mate Nick Heidfeld put in an untidy lap. Gianmaria Bruni will start 17th ahead of team-mate Zsolt Baumgartner, who spun his evil handling Minardi at the Variante Alta for the second time today.

The terminally unlucky Finn Kimi Raikkonen will start from the back of the grid for the second race running as he continues to be plagued by broken Mercedes engines.

Since before the season Button and BAR have been promising great things. In Imola, they have delivered once again, and not many would deny the Englishman his well-earned moment in the spotlight.

"To beat the Ferraris and Michael in Italy is special," said BAR team principal David Richards. "Jenson has driven to perfection, if you look at his last sector he is demonstrably faster than anyone else. He told me earlier in the day that he was holding something back for the last sector, so I think he gave it his all. He's grown with the team so much this year. He's put himself in the right place to do the job."

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