The newly Virgin-branded Brawn's winter testing victory translated on Saturday into locking out the front row of the grid for the 2009 season opener.

The newly Virgin-branded Brawn's winter testing victory translated on Saturday into locking out the front row of the grid for the 2009 season opener.

After Williams' Nico Rosberg captured the fastest times in all three pre-qualifying practice sessions, Jenson Button shifted into a higher gear to capture pole in Australia.

His teammate Rubens Barrichello was three tenths slower but still a comfortable second, as Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel joined the white-overalled drivers from Brackley in the post-session press conference.

Lewis Hamilton's first weekend as reigning world champion went from bad to worse in qualifying: yet again slower than his McLaren teammate, and forced to sit out 'Q2' with what he disconsolately told reporters was a broken component in the rear of his MP4-24.

A year after winning at Albert Park, he is fifteenth on the grid, one place behind the sister McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen, who on Saturday was quicker only than the slow Toro Rossos, Force Indias and Nelson Piquet.

Elsewhere, the field is incredibly closely matched and equally hard to read: BMW's Nick Heidfeld is seven places behind his teammate, Rosberg eight places ahead of Kazuki Nakajima, and local driver Mark Webber seven places behind Vettel.

The struggling Ferraris are just seventh and ninth on the grid, while neither Renault graduated into the top-ten runout.

 

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Brawn locks out Melbourne front row