Australian GP: Honda race notes

THREE POINTS AND TWO IN THE TOP TEN FOR B.A.R HONDA IN AUSTRALIA Button and Sato cross the line sixth and ninth in Melbourne Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button got his 2004 season off to an encouraging start, crossing the line sixth at the...

Button and Sato cross the line sixth and ninth in Melbourne

Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button got his 2004 season off to an encouraging start, crossing the line sixth at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, scoring three championship points for himself and the team. Team-mate Takuma Sato just missed out on a points finish as he brought his B.A.R Honda home in ninth place.

Conditions remained fine and dry at Albert Park (air 18, track 24) as the 58 lap race got underway to signal the start of the 2004 season. Jenson Button held fourth place off the grid but Fernando Alonso (Renault) managed to tuck in ahead of him during the first corner jostle. The Briton came in for his first pit stop for fuel and tyres on lap 11 and was back up into fourth place by lap 15 once the first round of pit stops was completed.

Button moved up into third position when Alonso pitted on lap 24 but three laps later the Honda-powered driver came in for his own second stop and by lap 32 was running in fifth place. Sixth placed Juan Pablo Montoya began to catch Button and on lap 38 the Williams driver managed to dive past, forcing the Briton onto the grass and into sixth position. The B.A.R Honda driver continued unscathed and came in for his third and final pit stop on lap 42. Despite setting consistently quick lap times, Button could not catch the Columbian and went on to cross the line sixth, scoring three championship points for himself and B.A.R Honda.

Takuma Sato fell back two places to ninth at the start of the race due to first corner traffic and touching the Renault of Jarno Trulli. The Japanese driver held ninth position until lap 12 when he came in for his first of three scheduled pit stops. The team was able to inspect the B.A.R Honda 006 for damage sustained in Sato's first lap incident, as well as change tyres and refuel. Sato rejoined in 10th place and held position despite a brief detour over the grass at the end of start finish straight on lap 17. On lap 28 he pitted for fuel, tyres and a new nosecone, and four laps later Honda-powered Sato was back in 10th place, moving up to ninth position on lap 40 when Felipe Massa ran wide. Late in the race Sato was on a charge to catch McLaren's David Coulthard but had to leave the track on lap 46 for his final pit stop. The B.A.R Honda driver rejoined in ninth place and went on to finish the race just shy of a points finish.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher dominated the Australian Grand Prix and took the chequered flag for the fourth time in the last five years. He was joined on the podium by team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Renault's Fernando Alonso. Fourth and fifth place were taken by the Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya while B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button finished sixth. Jarno Trulli (Renault) and McLaren's David Coulthard took the final two point scoring positions.

Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"Overall this weekend was an encouraging start to the season. We're satisfied because both engines ran smoothly and the pit stop work was also very good. We need to keep pushing on with the development to further improve our performance throughout the year."

Jenson Button Position: 6th

"It's good to finish in the points in the first race and have three points under my belt already. It's the first time I've finished with points in Australia. My start wasn't particularly great and it was very slippery out there, but I managed to hold on to fourth for some time. Ralf was able to get past me in the pitstop when we had a delay with the refuelling nozzle. Then Montoya got by on the circuit. I think we need a little more in the way of race pace but it's a solid start to the season. We had good reliability but then so did everyone else, which was quite surprising given the predictions. It's tough but at least we were up there with the competition throughout. We need to keep the momentum going now and hopefully we can look forward to better things in Malaysia in a couple of weeks."

Takuma Sato Position: 9th

"It was quite a busy race. The start was good but then I was squeezed into the first corner and made contact with the Renault, damaging my nosecone. The team asked me if there was any problem but as it was the first lap and I had no reference for commenting on the car balance. At the first pitstop though, we found some damage to the nose and we changed it at the second stop. Immediately the car felt much better and I was able to consistently lap a second quicker than in the first stint, so it had clearly upset the car. The car felt good throughout the second and third stints but then after the third stop, the gurney started to lift from the rear wing and it was flapping around for the last few laps, upsetting the airflow quite a bit. I'm a little bit disappointed with ninth to be honest, but I'm pleased we got both cars to the finish in the first race. The reliability of all the teams has been quite surprising but everyone has done a lot of work in testing over the winter. Generally, a good start to the year for the team but I'm sure we can do better in Malaysia."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams