Austrian GP: Honda race notes

FIVE POINTS FOR HONDA IN AUSTRIA Button and Villeneuve finish fourth and 12th at the A1-Ring Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's Jenson Button finished in fourth place and scored five points at the Austrian Grand Prix, the best finish for the team so far...

FIVE POINTS FOR HONDA IN AUSTRIA
Button and Villeneuve finish fourth and 12th at the A1-Ring

Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's Jenson Button finished in fourth place and scored five points at the Austrian Grand Prix, the best finish for the team so far this season, while team-mate Jacques Villeneuve crossed the line 12th.

The Austrian Grand Prix finally got underway on the third attempt, having been aborted twice due to Toyota's Cristiano Da Matta, who stalled on the grid both times the red lights were about to go out. Just over fifteen minutes after the race was scheduled to start, the cars made their way around the A1-Ring for their third formation lap.

The weather remained fairly cool (air 19, track 25 degrees) and light rain started to fall as the cars finally got away successfully for the start of the race, which was shortened by two laps to 69 due to the re-starts. Both B*A*R Honda drivers got off the grid smoothly, Button losing one place to eighth and Villeneuve making up one position to 11th.

The safety car was deployed on lap two as Jos Verstappen's Minardi, which had stopped just after the start, had to be removed from the side of the track. The cars began racing again on lap five when the safety car returned to the pits. By lap 14 the grandstands were peppered with umbrellas as the skies darkened and the rain got heavier. Button and Villeneuve put in some solid laps and by lap 22 were running in fourth and fifth place respectively as the front-runners pitted and Jarno Trulli (Renault) spun off the track.

Button came in for his first of two scheduled pit stops from third position on lap 24 and rejoined in fourth place. By lap 32 the B*A*R Honda driver was back up in to third place, and enjoyed a battle with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello, eventually being overtaken three laps later. Button continued to push hard and on lap 47 the Briton pitted from fourth place, rejoining in sixth position and moving back up in to the fourth spot by lap 50 as the second round of pit stops were completed. Button remained focussed as he made his way through the back markers and put in a strong last stint to finish in fourth position, the best result of his career with B*A*R Honda, scoring five valuable points and moving the team up into sixth place in the constructors' championship.

Villeneuve was also looking good for a points finish, running in fifth place just behind his team-mate by lap 22. The Canadian pitted on lap 23 and rejoined in 10th place, losing time due to a problem with the steering wheel electronics which meant that his pit lane limiter button did not work. Villeneuve battled with Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan) and overtook him on lap 31 for ninth place. By lap 43 the B*A*R Honda driver was up in to fifth position as Montoya retired, Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) dropped back and Fernando Alonso and Ralf Schumacher pitted.

Six laps later Villeneuve came in to the pits from fourth place for his final stop of the race, but the Canadian's car got stuck in second gear as a result of his earlier electronics problem and stalled in the box. The team worked fast to change the steering wheel and get Villeneuve back out into the action, but the time he lost in the pits cost him a points finish and the B*A*R Honda driver went on to cross the line 12th.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher took the chequered flag followed by Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari). B*A*R Honda's Jenson Button and McLaren's David Coulthard finished fourth and fifth while Ralf Schumacher (Williams) crossed the line sixth. The final two points scoring positions were taken by Mark Webber (Jaguar) and Jarno Trulli (Renault).

Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"Today's race was half pleasure, half pain for us. A great result for Jenson who fought so hard this afternoon and I'm really happy to score some more points. Jacques was also having a good race until the problem in his second pit stop so it was a tough day for him as he had a points finish in sight. Our engines ran well all weekend and we will continue to upgrade the performance to keep this momentum going."

Jenson Button Position: 4th

"I had a great race; I really enjoyed it. I matched my best race finish today so it's great to be back up there getting the points again. The team did a superb job in the pitstops to get me out ahead of the Ferrari and everything just went well for me. I had a bit of oversteer because we ran new tyres on the rear, but it was nothing I couldn't handle. This is just what the team needed - and deserved. We earned our result today; it wasn't just a fluke.

"I've had a great weekend all round really. I think we've shown how quick we are all the way through practice and qualifying, and today's was a genuine race performance. It was nice to be able to challenge the front runners, which is what we are capable of doing. We have to maintain the momentum now and I'll be doing three days testing in Valencia next week in preparation for Monaco to make sure that happens."

Jacques Villeneuve Position: 12th

"We had a problem all the way through the race because the electronics on the steering stopped working on the first lap. I had no limiter button, no idea of which gear I was in, no neutral - no nothing. I had to do it all manually. My race engineer was even counting my speed down for me coming into the pits!"

"Then the electronics problem caused a stall at the second pitstop. We had decided not to change the steering wheel at the first stop because it can mess up the electronics, but after the car stalled we changed it but had to wait for the system to reset. It was a fairly disastrous stop and I lost a lot of time. When you lose a lap because of mechanical problems there isn't much you can do.

"I've had problems in four races out of six now and it's obviously very frustrating. It's a great shame because it will be difficult for us to get a car that's better than this in race trim. It felt really great. We keep getting a very good set- up for the race but I haven't been able to make the most of it. I'll just have to continue working hard and hopefully things will come good for me soon."

-honda-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Jos Verstappen , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Fernando Alonso , Shuhei Nakamoto
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan