Japanese GP: BAR Saturday qualifying notes

A determined lap from Jenson Button helped Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda secure its objective of a top-ten grid position today in preparation for what is effectively a home race for the team. He posted the ninth fastest time and will line up on the...

A determined lap from Jenson Button helped Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda secure its objective of a top-ten grid position today in preparation for what is effectively a home race for the team. He posted the ninth fastest time and will line up on the fifth row of the grid in front of what is expected to be a record crowd, largely following Takuma's impromptu race debut for the team.

Takuma consolidated a successful start to his first race for the team today, posting the 13th fastest lap in the final qualifying session and securing a seventh-row grid slot for the start of his home Grand Prix.

The skies above the newly-modified Suzuka circuit grew progressively more overcast as the crucial qualifying hour approached, before giving way to light rain during the preceding warm-up session. Track temperature peaked at 23°C, with ambient temperature reaching 22°C. The drivers left the pit lane in reverse order of yesterday's first qualifying session - Jenson fifth and Takuma tenth.

Jenson Button:

"I was a little bit on the edge there and overcooked it in a couple of places, particularly in the second Degna where I went right over the kerb, so I lost a bit of time there. We needed to pull out a fast one though and get the best out of the car, and that's what we've got to do to get the grid position. My set-up wasn't ideal going into warm-up and we had to work quite hard during that session to make it better. It's still not ideal but I'm quite pleased with the lap overall and it was a lot of fun. The most important thing now is to give it everything we've got in the race in order to win back fifth in the Championship."

Takuma Sato:

"That was a little difficult for me. The important thing was to stay close to Jenson and I'm quite pleased with where I ended up. I did make a couple of mistakes which cost me a couple of tenths. Most importantly I didn't make a big mistake so I'm quite confident for the race. Contrary to what many people think, I'm not as familiar with Suzuka as most of the current drivers. Before 2002, the last time I raced here was in 1998, and prior to that I only ever raced here in school series. With the latest changes to the circuit, I'm still learning as much as the other drivers - more so, of course, because I haven't raced for a year. I have a huge amount of support here though and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."

David Richards, Team Principal:

"Well the last race is proving to be as dramatic as the whole 2003 season! Rain has once again upset the form book, but I am obviously pleased that this has helped our cause. It is difficult to know what fuel loads our direct competitors were running, but our grid positions have put us in touch with where we need to be. Jenson made a couple of small errors and probably had the speed to be a couple of places higher. Taku did a satisfactory job, but will no doubt benefit from more experience with this style of qualifying as we get into next season. As for tomorrow, I imagine that a great deal is going to depend on the weather, and with a forecast of rain it may well play into our hands."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:

"We were fortunate to avoid the penalty of the variable weather in qualifying today, however neither driver got an ideal lap. Jenson ran wide at the second Degna and lost some time through the chicane, as did Takuma, whose lap was also a little ragged. This morning we lost a bit of time with a hydraulics problem on Takuma's car, but were able to complete the majority of our set-up work with Jenson working hard to catch up after losing most of yesterday's running.. We are happy with our set-up and strategy for tomorrow's race and our clear objective is to regain fifth position in the constructors' championship."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"Another good effort from Jenson and Taku. The conditions obviously played a part in qualifying today and may well affect the race tomorrow. We have to take every opportunity we get to secure fifth place in the constructors' championship in front of our home crowd."

Jenson Button
Chassis: BAR Honda 005-4
Position: 9th
Lap time: 1:33.474

Takuma Sato
Chassis: BAR Honda 005-6
Position: 13th
Lap time: 1:33.924

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Jenson Button , David Richards , Shuhei Nakamoto