Rubens Barrichello delighted the home fans as he took pole after a marathon qualifying session that lasted nearly three hours, as the Sao Paulo weather rained on Jenson Button's parade.

The main thing to report is rain.

Lots of rain.

After the small sprinklings that dampened the opening practice sessions came a torrential downpour. It curtailed the Saturday morning practice session to barely 20 minutes, and the weather decided to stay around the track for the qualifying session.

Despite some fears qualifying got under way on time at 2pm local time it was clear it was going to be ordinary session. Only a handful of cars splashed out, including title hopeful Sebastien Vettel and Giancarlo Fisichella.

And it wasn't long before the red flag was out.

Fisichella's Ferrari nightmare continued as he aquaplaned and spun through turn 2, sailing to a halt facing across the track and stalling. “As I turned the wheel,” explained the Italian. “I hit the engine cut-out switch and that was my qualifying over with.”

“The conditions were almost impossible. I ended up spinning even though I wasn’t going that quickly, but I was at a point where the track was flooded.”

With the Ferrari stranded in the middle of the track officials had no option other than to red flag the session, a fact that would have been true even if the track was dry and this was a normal qualifying session. But what Fisichella's spin, or rather the impressive bow wave that could be seen preceding the four sliding Bridgestones, proved was just how bad the conditions were.

That extended the 'normal' red flag time as Charlie Whiting and company waited for a break in the weather to restart the session.

That took just over ten minutes, but the decision was vindicated when the first flying laps were completed. Lewis Hamilton, the first out once the red flag was lifted lopped over 12 seconds of the time Vettel had set before the break, and times kept tumbling. As a marker of how much speeds eventually increased, Fisichella, whose time (1:40.703) was second fastest before his spin ended up 15 seconds slower than the next fastest driver (Heidfeld), who himself was nearly three seconds off the pace set by Nico Rosberg.

But it was all going wrong for Sebastian Vettel. The man heralded by some as a rain master after his performance for Toro Rosso was struggling. As everyone (bar the luckless Fisichella) stampeded past his early mark the German found himself in traffic as nearly everyone pounded endlessly round in the, still very wet, conditions.

When he finally had clean air the rain had become heavier again and his chances of improving and making the top 15 were slim. His problems were well illustrated on his way up from Juncao on what would be his final lap, the tail of his car snaking and squirming with every throttle application, an ordeal after which he pulled into the pits, abandoned the car askew in the pit lane, threw the steering wheel out and stormed into the motorhome still in full driving attire.

He joined Hiedfeld and Fisichella and the McLaren duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton, who had his own off, spinning and steaming his way through the sodden grass at turn 5.

Any other race that would mean it was time for Q2.

But not today, the worsening weather forcing another delay to the schedule.

Q2 eventually got underway shortly before 3pm local time (about the time we would normally be congratulating the pole winner) in, frankly appalling conditions. While drivers were still turning fast laps the visibility was dreadful.

When the graphic for a completed lap time appeared on the TV screen it was very much a 'I'll take your word for it' situation as even looking down the pit straight it took several seconds for a car to emerge from the mist.

And once when a car emerged it did so backwards and scraping down the pitwall.

That was Tonio Liuzzi. He had lost his Force India unseen to TV cameras in the mist, and spun into the wall, reportedly in an impact that shook Brawn GP's outpost, before continuing backwards down the track, across the apex of turn 1 and into the tyre barrier, wiping off three corners of the VMJ02 and damaging the fourth.

That crash, once more brought out the red flag and once more led to some serious thinking about the wisdom of continuing.

There was much speculation that the session would be stopped, and the grid set using the results of the completed Q1 session, but no announcement came, and the delay moved into the realms of NASCAR (or more recently Petit Le Mans).

Despite numerous calls from drivers and team principals to stop the session it did get back underway.

An hour and ten minutes later.

That restart saw a decision. Intermediate or wet tyres. Most including Nico Rosberg, who was once more topping timesheets, started on wets and then quickly moved onto intermediate tyres. Jenson Button did not.

The Briton completed lap after lap failing to crack the ever-improving top ten, as his tyres became less and less suited to the conditions (though Adrian Sutil managed to make it through comfortably on the same rubber). Button's eventual 14th place start will have him only one place ahead of Vettel, though that far back in the field Button's may worry must be his teammate.

And it was left to his teammate, Barrichello, to steal the headlines from the weather in the final part of qualifying, which was a typically frantic affair, with the drying track meaning that nearly every lap was an improvement.

Buemi led early, before being swallowed by the Williams, Webber, Rosberg and lately Sutil. However, it was Barrichello you clinched pole at his home track to cries of “Rubinho” and to set up a thrilling race tomorrow.

And there wasn't even a red flag on Q3!