TOP FIVE FOR HONDA DUO IN FIRST QUALIFYING Villeneuve and Button third and fifth fastest at Albert Park Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button put in a great performance to finish third and fifth fastest respectively in...
TOP FIVE FOR HONDA DUO IN FIRST QUALIFYING
Villeneuve and Button third and fifth fastest at Albert Park
Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button put in a great performance to finish third and fifth fastest respectively in today's first qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park on Sunday. The entire grid was under pressure due to the new regulations, allowing them only one flying lap on Friday afternoon and limited track time in the morning.
Both Honda-powered drivers were unable to complete the full hour's running during the morning session due to engine failure. Villeneuve was forced to swap to the spare car after damaging his chassis and the team worked fast between the two sessions to change the engine in Button's car.
The order for today's session was dictated by the order of the 2002 championship standings, hence Button went out seventh (15 minutes into the session) and Villeneuve 11th. Button's time of 1m27.159s placed him a sensational fourth, just seven tenths of a second off the pace, later in the session moving down to fifth as Michael Schumacher just managed to slot in above him. Despite the fact that Villeneuve only covered five laps in the morning, the Canadian stunned the crowd by setting a fastest time of 1m26.832s, securing third place and sandwiching the Ferrari between himself and team-mate Button. Today's performance gave the team a massive boost and was a great achievement for B*A*R Honda in the inaugural session of the exciting new qualifying format.
Friday now takes on greater significance than in previous years as the drivers will start in reverse order of today's times for final qualifying on Saturday, meaning Button and Villeneuve will be out on track 16th and 18th respectively to complete their one flying lap. Because Albert Park is a street circuit the drivers who run towards the end of the qualifying hour should benefit from improved track conditions, as more rubber will have been laid down and the track should be quicker and less dusty. There is no let up on the pressure for the teams however and tomorrow is likely to be just as unpredictable as today.
Perfect weather conditions greeted the drivers in Melbourne (23 degrees) as Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello topped the times with a 1m26.372s, closely followed by Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren). The B*A*R Hondas of Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button sandwich Ferrari's Michael Schumacher while David Coulthard (McLaren) completes the top six.
Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"All in all we've had a hell of a day! I am delighted that we've managed to get both cars into the top five. Both drivers did a great job with the pressure of the new single lap regulations on them, particularly as they hadn't had much time in the car this morning. The first session was massively disappointing but the team rallied round to change the engine on Jenson's car and prepare the spare car for Jacques. We've obviously had a look at the engines from the first session and it looks like the same problem occurred on both engines. We seem to have a bad batch of parts in the camshaft area so we will analyse further tonight to solve the problem."
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 3rd
"I'm really surprised with 3rd because we did hardly any running or set-up work this morning. I only completed two laps so I didn't know where to be on the race track, where to brake. I had to switch to the T-car and I thought that was it for the day; I thought we'd be qualifying 15th or something. Obviously I know the track but when you haven't done any set-up work there are no reference points. At the beginning of the first two corners I wasn't as quick as I could have been. I guess it all depends on how you warm your tyres up and the tyres held up quite well so the last sector was good. It's been a long time since I was this far up the grid and although today wasn't final qualifying, it was easy to see who was quick and who wasn't. It won't be as easy to see that tomorrow with people running different fuel levels. The guys did a fantastic job and it's a good result for the team."
Jenson Button Position: 5th
"After this morning's practice I'm delighted with 5th and it's a great team result. The guys did a fantastic job. Today was the first running I've done in this car on low fuel so it's great to see that we're running up there with the quicker guys. I had a slow middle sector and then suffered with understeer in the final corner but generally the car felt great. I just wish these were our final qualifying positions! That would be nice."