After the promise of yesterday afternoon's free practice session, in which Jenson Button set the third fastest time, today's qualifying session in Valencia ended in disappointment for the Honda Racing F1 Team. Jenson and his team-mate Rubens ...
After the promise of yesterday afternoon's free practice session, in which Jenson Button set the third fastest time, today's qualifying session in Valencia ended in disappointment for the Honda Racing F1 Team. Jenson and his team-mate Rubens Barrichello will start tomorrow's European Grand Prix in 16th and 19th positions respectively.
Lap times around the 5.440km (3.380-mile) street circuit were extremely close throughout Q1. Jenson set his first flying lap, a 1:38.880s, on the harder of Bridgestone's two tyre compounds and that time placed him in an impressive fifth position after all the drivers had completed one run each. He then waited for the track conditions to improve before switching to the softer and theoretically faster rubber for his final run of Q1, but he had less grip and wasn't able to improve his lap time.
Rubens had an even more torrid time. He was unhappy with the balance of his RA108 throughout this morning's free practice and he completed 10 laps in Q1 in an effort to find a solution. While he was able to improve his best time by two seconds from the beginning to the end of Q1, it wasn't enough and his time of 1:39.811s will see him line up in 19th place on the grid tomorrow.
Q. Talk us through what must be a very disappointing qualifying session.
A. "It was a really disappointing qualifying today, particularly as we have been quick all weekend. My first run on the prime tyres was good but we simply chose the wrong tyre for my final run in Q1. I had no grip with the option and it just wasn't very competitive for us. My final run was slower than my prime run, which shouldn't happen on a circuit which is improving all the time. I'm really disappointed as we have improved the car but today we didn't make the most of that."
Q. Rubens, another difficult day for you here in Valencia.
A. "It has been an incredibly frustrating day for us today. We were not able to find a balance on the car in practice this morning which affected our preparations for qualifying. This afternoon I particularly struggled with rear locking which cost me a lot of time as I wasn't able to attack the lap. It's very disappointing to be starting the first race here from so far back on the grid."
Head of Race & Test Engineering
Q. There were real signs of progress in free practice so what went wrong in qualifying?
A. "Our free practice pace was genuine and we have definitely made some improvements to the car over the break and here this week. Today I felt we could have had one car in the top ten. Rubens has been struggling with the car all day and we never really managed to overcome those problems. Jenson however had the car working very well as we saw with his first run in qualifying when he was using the prime tyre. He then switched to option tyres but they didn't work at all for him and he could not match his early time. With the mid pack being so close he was just squeezed out of Q2 contention."
Q. What are your expectations for the race tomorrow now?
A. "From our grid positions the race will certainly be a challenge. If the car is working well tomorrow the drivers will be up against slower cars ahead and we think overtaking is going to be difficult. However race incidents are likely here. It could be very tricky off-line and, as we have seen from the other series, there are places from which cars are difficult to recover so safety cars are a real possibility. We now need to focus on making our strategy as robust as possible to ensure we are well-placed to take advantage of any opportunities."