HONDA-POWERED DRIVER FOURTH FASTEST IN FREE PRACTICE Button and Sato fourth and 12th at Albert Park Due to regulation changes for 2004, the Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda trio of Jenson Button, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were all out on track ...
HONDA-POWERED DRIVER FOURTH FASTEST IN FREE PRACTICE
Button and Sato fourth and 12th at Albert Park
Due to regulation changes for 2004, the Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda trio of Jenson Button, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were all out on track at Albert Park for the first free practice sessions of the season. Jenson and Takuma finished fourth and 12th overall with Anthony 15th.
The new sporting regulations for this year mean that the qualifying sessions which took place on Friday and Saturday in 2003 will, from this weekend onwards, be run together in one continuous session on Saturday afternoons. In addition, the teams who finished fifth or below in the 2003 constructors' championship are allowed to run a third driver during both Friday free practice sessions, making B.A.R Honda the top team able to do this. Another significant rule change is that all teams are only allowed to use one engine for each driver during all practice sessions and the race. Each time another engine is used, the driver has to move back 10 places on the qualifying grid.
In the morning practice session Jenson and Anthony set the eighth and ninth fastest times and completed seven and 25 laps respectively while Takuma finished 13th and covered six laps. Having been cool and overcast in the morning, the characteristically changeable Melbourne weather became warm and sunny by lunchtime, the air and track temperatures registering 22 and 29 degrees at the start of the afternoon session.
Jenson was in fine form during second free practice, setting the fourth fastest time of the day of 1m25.786s and covering 15 laps. His B.A.R Honda 006 came to a halt on track on his last lap. The team has located the source of the problem and will have a solution for the car for tomorrow.
Takuma covered 14 laps in the afternoon and finished 12th with a time of 1m26.967s. Anthony ran for 11 laps and recorded a time of 1m27.516s, placing him 15th overall. The Briton's car suffered a gearbox sensor failure so he had to stop running two thirds of the way through the session.
In tomorrow's qualifying session the race drivers will carry out a single timed lap starting in the order they were classified in the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix. The running order for the second part of qualifying will be determined by the times set in the first part, with the slowest driver going out first.
The Ferrari pairing of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello topped the times today, Schumacher recording a 1m24.718s, followed by Renault's Jarno Trulli and B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button. Fifth and sixth were Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Ralf Schumacher (Williams).
Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"Overall we had a good first day of the season, and we are about where we expected to be based on the results of winter testing. Anthony did well, but a problem with his car in the second session meant that we couldn't finish all of the planned programme. Jenson's car also had a problem on its last lap but there is a solution in place for tomorrow. It feels good to be back racing again."
Jenson Button Position: 4th
"It's been a very interesting start to the new season. It felt quite strange leaving most of the driving to Anthony but he's done a great job of obtaining information for myself and Taku for the second session. He's going to play a key role in the way our race weekends shape up this season as Taku and I preserve our engines. We're working really well together, exactly as we do in testing, and there isn't any learning curve for us as a driver line-up, which is going to be a significant advantage. The car feels strong and we have some good tyre options, so I'm feeling positive about the race debut of the 006. The conditions are improving all the time as the circuit cleans up and I'm looking forward to more set-up work tomorrow morning in readiness for what is likely to be a very interesting qualifying session."
Takuma Sato Position: 12th
"It's great to be back competing in a Grand Prix again but it is quite a challenge to adapt to the new format. I've had very little track time so it is difficult to choose the right tyre in such a short space of time. We're working very well together as a team though and it is encouraging that all three drivers seem to be following the same direction. I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of the weekend shapes up now."
Anthony Davidson Position: 15th
"I'm very pleased with the way things have gone in my first day of race weekend running with B.A.R Honda. It was fun to see my name up there with all the other drivers and I feel that we have achieved a lot in support of the two race drivers. I'm pretty happy with my times and I have adapted to the track very quickly. All the work I have done over the winter to learn the new circuits certainly seems to have paid off today. Of course, it's great to be here as part of an established driver line-up. It's just like being at a test with them really, so I feel very comfortable. I think the new Friday format will work well and will be a very important part of moving the team forward."