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Button roars to Monaco pole, Raikkonen second

FORMULA One championship leader Jenson Button put himself on pole position for a fifth win in six races after a manic Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session yesterday.

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion whose Ferrari team is threatening to walk away at the end of the season in a standoff over the 2010 rules, joined the Briton on the front row in a sign of the Italian team's resurgence after a dismal start to the year. The Finn finished 0.025 seconds behind Button's fastest lap of 1 minute, 14.902 seconds.

Button's Brazilian Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello qualified third on his 37th birthday with Red Bull's German Sebastian Vettel alongside.

Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa starts fifth with Germany's Nico Rosberg next to him in a Williams.

"Today was a really tough fight," said Button of a seventh career pole position secured with a flying lap right at the end of qualifying.

"It was manic, as it always is in Monaco, It's good to have come away with the pole, I was right on the edge," added the Monaco resident, favorite for victory on a street circuit notoriously difficult for overtaking.

"I think Jenson is getting into the habit of saving the best for last," team boss Ross Brawn told BBC television. "He knew that was the lap where he had to produce and he's just driving exceptionally well at the moment."

While one Briton celebrated, another had a nightmare afternoon.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton effectively wrecked his chances of winning for the second year in a row when he smashed his McLaren into the barriers after just 11 minutes.

The 24-year-old lost the back end of the car on the entrance to the Mirabeau hairpin and hit the tire wall in the first part of qualifying.

With debris on the track, the session was halted briefly while Hamilton, who qualified 16th, made his way back to the garages.

"Going for a race win is for sure over," Hamilton told the BBC. "I just don't know what I was thinking, I made a mistake. It's a shame because the weekend had been going so well. I want to apologize to the team for wasting their time."

Toyota, still chasing its first win, was also licking its wounds after Germany's Timo Glock and Italian Jarno Trulli filled the back row, behind the two BMW Saubers which have also struggled all season.

However, Force India was on a high after breaking into the second qualifying phase for the first time this season with Giancarlo Fisichella qualifying 13th and Adrian Sutil 15th.

Button leads Barrichello by 14 points in the standings. Vettel trails Button by 18 points in third.


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