The Honda Racing F1 Team makes its racing debut as a Honda works team this weekend as the Kingdom of Bahrain hosts the curtain-raiser to the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship. The F1 fraternity is set to chart a rather different course...
The Honda Racing F1 Team makes its racing debut as a Honda works team this weekend as the Kingdom of Bahrain hosts the curtain-raiser to the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship. The F1 fraternity is set to chart a rather different course around the globe this year as Melbourne, the traditional home of the season-opener, plays host to the Commonwealth Games.
So the focus switches to the Middle East and the challenging Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, where the machinations of winter testing will finally play out to reveal the class of the 2006 field. The team's driver line-up of Rubens Barrichello (No. 11) and Jenson Button (No. 12) will be racing together for the first time, supported by third driver Anthony Davidson, who will be looking to emulate his star performances from the 2004 season as he returns to the Friday testing role.
An intensive winter testing programme with the RA106 and the Concept car has seen the Honda Racing F1 Team complete 27,000 kms of testing at the Barcelona, Jerez and Valencia circuits in Spain and, in preparation for the first race, at the Bahrain International Circuit in February, where the team spent four days honing its tyres and set-up to the demands of the arid desert conditions. Since its launch on 25 January, the RA106 has covered over 14,700 kms and demonstrated encouraging performance and good reliability.
"It's really exciting for me to be racing for the very first time as a Honda Racing F1 Team driver. Since I have joined the team at the start of the year, it has been a very intense period of working hard on the test track and with the engineers. We have covered an incredible amount of laps and have been able to establish good reliability as well as improve the pace of the car."
"For me, our most important test was in Bahrain last month where we could work on the set-up of the car in the hot weather we will face this weekend and also complete a lot of laps, which really helped my physical conditioning. I feel very much at home with the team now and I can't wait for the first race of the new season, where I believe we will be very competitive."
"Our pre-season testing programme has been extremely positive. The RA106 was strong and reliable from the start which has enabled us to complete plenty of mileage and given me the confidence to push the development from an early stage. I tried to complete as much testing as possible over the winter, which is reflected by the amount of kilometres I have driven. I have also been training hard and feel mentally and physically stronger than ever before."
"The Bahrain International Circuit is a great track and I enjoy racing here. There are several overtaking opportunities which always makes things exciting and the fast flowing sections are great. Testing in Bahrain in February was hugely beneficial for us and we are the only Michelin team to have tested the tyres and our car in the hot conditions prior to the race."
"I think that we have a really competitive package, and although this is the first time we will really see where we are compared to the other teams, I hope to be challenging for wins. I can't wait for the racing to begin this weekend."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director:
"As the numbers show, we have had a very productive testing programme since the end of the 2005 season. This included a successful four day test in Bahrain itself, where we encountered conditions which we hope will be similar this weekend. We have experienced a high level of reliability with the Concept car and the new RA106, which in turn helped us develop our package further."
"The RA106 has certainly shown a lot of promise in terms of speed in the hands of our three drivers and it is fair to say that all of us at the Honda Racing F1 Team are really excited and looking forward to the race in Bahrain, where we will find out how we truly measure up against our competition."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"We are all very excited at the prospect of finally seeing exactly where we stand against the other Formula One teams. It's nearly forty years since we had a full Honda works team in Formula One, and we have good reason to expect a strong start to the season after a promising winter testing programme."