In winter testing prior to this season BAR was breaking lap records and showing every indication of becoming a serious challenger. Eleven races into 2004 the team has realised its potential and is currently third in the constructors' championship.
In winter testing prior to this season BAR was breaking lap records and showing every indication of becoming a serious challenger. Eleven races into 2004 the team has realised its potential and is currently third in the constructors' championship. Drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato have taken seven podium finishes between them -- the only thing BAR has yet to claim is that elusive first win.
"We have almost achieved all our objectives," said technical director Geoff Willis in an interview with the team website. "Our objectives were to be competing with the top three teams and to have a certain number of podium places -- and also a race win."
"We are in the top three and in some ways you could say we are competing to be within the top two. We've also had seven podiums -- so, yes, we are achieving a lot of our targets. However we are still very keen to try and get a win this year. That's the next target -- it's a tough challenge with Ferrari but we certainly haven't given up on it."
BAR has perhaps been helped by Williams and McLaren having a difficult first half to the season but Willis believes the BAR Honda 006 is a really good car. "Certainly it's always helpful if some of your opposition have problems," he conceded. "However, I believe genuinely we've made a very big step with the car and it genuinely is consistently quicker than any other car out there aside from the Ferrari."
The team is testing at Jerez this week, working on all-important developments to the car. BAR was a little off the pace in Britain and wants to be back on it for the next race, the German Grand Prix. This is the last week of testing available before the three-week summer break that follows Hockenheim.
"We have quite a lot of developments that either have been tested or will be tested this week at Jerez," said Willis. "We tested some the week before Magny Cours but really didn't have quite enough time to complete our programmes. We did some testing on Friday and Saturday at Silverstone but we haven't signed these off yet, so they're not race-spec. This week we will be testing these again in Jerez with an intention of getting them on the car at Hockenheim."
Renault is currently second in the constructors' championship and while Willis would like to see BAR take that position, settling for third may be a compromise. "It's possible," he said of gaining second. "But we've got to take a balance between what's achievable this year and our plans for next year."
"We need to keep improving and to make another big step for 2005. If that means we need to keep pushing for second place this year that's what we'll do. But, if at a certain point it looks as though we are going to get third quite comfortably and second is right on the edge of being in reach, we may have to choose to focus on next year's car to make sure we make the next big step for 2005."
Willis is pleased with the way the technical team has come together this season and believes it can become even better. "It's good," he affirmed. "We've built a very strong set-up and I believe our technical team is demonstrating that we are able to compete with anybody else out there."
"If I can maintain a stable team, perhaps add a little bit more to it and get the relationship with Honda and the Honda engineers fully integrated into the design groups, I'm confident we'll have the strongest technical team on the grid."