The 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway next Friday, 5 March, at the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne, Australia. After an intensive winter testing programme, incorporating nearly 21,000km of chassis and engine performance...
The 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway next Friday, 5 March, at the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne, Australia. After an intensive winter testing programme, incorporating nearly 21,000km of chassis and engine performance and reliability work, as well as getting to grips with new tyre supplier Michelin, Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda is eagerly anticipating the first race of what has the potential to be its best season yet.
With the demise of Friday testing and the introduction of a single engine per weekend limit, B*A*R will be putting third driver, Anthony Davidson, to work during the two Friday practice sessions in order to gather vital set-up and tyre data for race drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato, who will be limiting their mileage.
Albert Park is a high downforce circuit, and one that is very popular with the drivers. The 5.303km track features a mixture of short straights and slow to medium speed corners, and requires the car set-up to have a balance of good traction and stability under braking, as well as being aerodynamically efficient.
Teams face the problem of a green and dusty track on Friday, which takes time to clean. One unusual problem is ensuring leaves from the overhanging trees do not affect the running of the car. As Melbourne is much warmer than the venues visited in winter testing, it is also important for teams to ensure they have efficient cooling systems to cope with the high ambient temperatures.
"I can't wait for the season to start. We want to be strong from the off and if we can be quick in the first race it's only going to help our confidence and make us push on even more. The car has been very strong during winter testing and I'm expecting us to be reliable and to be fighting for podiums. I've never got a point at the Australian GP, so it would be really nice to start the season with points."
"I love Melbourne and I think it's the perfect place to start the season. It's a fantastic city and has some great restaurants. The track has a lot of straights and chicanes. There aren't many quick corners, but the racing is pretty good there. Qualifying was good there last year. We only did a few laps in practice, but still got a good result in the end. So last year was probably my best year yet."
"I still remember the first time I drove out on the circuit in 2000, I was behind Michael, driving out of the pits. It was pretty weird. I had only just turned 20 and there I was at my first Formula One race, driving out on the track behind Michael with all the leaves falling off the trees. It was just really cool. So that was my best feeling there. It will be pretty exciting to see what happens this year."
"I am visiting Japan on the way to Australia and will be training hard before the first race. I have raced at Melbourne once before - it was my debut race - but I had a technical problem in qualifying. It was a great place to do my first Grand Prix though and is the perfect race to start the season with. We have been working very hard over the winter and have achieved some good testing results and so I am really looking forward to racing the new car for the first time."
"So many things can happen in Melbourne, and everyone has a chance. Hopefully we will be strong straight away - I am certainly confident and optimistic. Looking at the testing results and progress we have made I am sure we are in a much better position than before, and I am really excited about the first race of the new season."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"I'm sure a lot of people believe the busiest time of year is over the summer months when they see us racing. However, the reality is that an enormous amount of hard work goes on at the factory and on test tracks during the winter months. We have tested our new car, the B*A*R Honda 006, extensively, and will see it race for the first time next weekend in Melbourne."
"Clearly the last race of the 2003 season was one of the highlights of our year and a great performance from the entire team. Seeing the way that Jenson and Takuma have continued to work together so well since then, and their testing times, I have little doubt that they will make a very strong combination. If we can deliver against our testing performance, which has been very encouraging, both drivers have a realistic chance of appearing on the podium at Albert Park."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"Melbourne is a great place to start the 2004 season, after the cold and damp of winter testing. The Albert park track is not particularly challenging for driver or car although brake wear is high and there have been cooling problems with the radiator ducts ingesting the autumn leaves. After a huge amount of pre-season testing we are confident in the level of performance of the new car as well as the reliability. We certainly have the potential to do very well here, the task of the team is to realise that potential and get both cars to the finish in the points."
"This is the first race with the new single-engine regulation so reliability will be at the top of everyone's attention and for most of the teams running on Friday will be quite limited. B*A*R has the advantage of running a third car on Friday with Anthony Davidson driving and the engineer and race drivers will need to maximise the benefit of this extra information for the race-tyre choice."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"We have all put a huge amount of effort into design, development, dyno and circuit testing of the new engine, and into the joint chassis development work with B*A*R. Now we are looking forward to seeing exactly how we will perform against the other teams when it counts. The excitement of the season opener is a very special feeling, and I can't wait for the race weekend to start."