Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda arrive in Brazil this week for the final long-haul race before the start of the European season. B*A*R experienced a weekend of mixed emotions at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago but are encouraged to have opened...
Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda arrive in Brazil this week for the final long-haul race before the start of the European season. B*A*R experienced a weekend of mixed emotions at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago but are encouraged to have opened their 2003 points account eight races ahead of the team's first points haul of 2002.
Jenson Button drove a hard-fought and committed race in one of the most physically demanding Grands Prix of the season. He was running as high as 3rd early on then struggled with progressive oversteer. He did well to hold on to 5th until the final lap, when the pace of Jarno Trulli and Michael Schumacher finally got the better of him. The problem that caused Jacques to miss the race was identified as an electrical fault with the MCU, which damaged the gearbox at the start of the parade lap.
The Interlagos circuit in São Paulo is renowned for being one of the most challenging in the calendar. Its low-grip, bumpy surface, steep gradients and anti-clockwise direction make it a tough test of both car and driver.
Jacques Villeneuve won this race in 1997 and went on to win the World Championship that year. His best position here in recent years was seventh place in 2001 after qualifying 12th. 2003 will be Jenson Button's fourth Grand Prix at Interlagos. He scored his first ever World Championship point here in 2000, finishing sixth after the disqualification of David Coulthard. Last year's race saw him finish an exceptional fourth for his former team.
B*A*R undertook a four-day test in Barcelona last week, in preparation for Brazil and Imola. Jacques and Jenson also took advantage of this final opportunity to test at the Circuit de Catalunya ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in May and, together with third driver Takuma Sato, ran through a programme of tyre, aerodynamic and engine development work. The team were delighted to complete more than 1600 kilometres over four days so, Jacques' Malaysian problem aside, reliability continues to improve with each test. The objective now is to carry that through to the race in Brazil and get both cars to the chequered flag in points-scoring positions.
"We worked well during the Malaysian Grand Prix but it was a pity that we couldn't show what we could do during the race. That was very disappointing. I'm looking forward to the next race however. The car is fast and we should be as competitive in Brazil as we were in Malaysia, if not more so. Interlagos isn't one of my favourite tracks, but if we can be quick there, then that's all that matters."
"In Australia I don't think you could really judge how effective the new rules were because of how much the weather conditions affected the outcome of the race. In Malaysia the weather was quite consistent - consistently hot! It made for an interesting race. I still disagree with not being able to refuel before the race, but if it makes the race weekend more exciting and it means the fans will come back to F1, then that's cool."
"After Malaysia I travelled back to Europe. I spent a day at home before heading to Italy the following day for a PR event with one of the team's sponsors. I then travelled to Barcelona for the last two days of the test and will now continue with my intensive training programme with Erwin before heading to Brazil."
"Although we secured two valuable points in Malaysia, I was of course disappointed to lose two more on the last lap to Jarno and Michael. Brazil should be better for us though. We've had a really positive test in Barcelona and it was great to be able to put in plenty of laps - 108 on my first day there. All the signs are that our reliability is improving all the time and we have also worked towards improving the way we adapt to race conditions."
"Interlagos is an interesting and very challenging circuit. It's very bumpy, which is the main feature you notice when you first race there, but it's great fun and it has a lot of history. For me the best corner has to be Ferra Dura - a slightly slow right-hander. You take it in third gear and it goes into a fourth-gear corner which drops away, so the exit is completely blind. It really gets the adrenalin pumping. The other good corner is at the end of the back straight. It's a second-gear corner and that's where you see a lot of incidents normally, but it's a good overtaking opportunity."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"Aside from the problem with Jacques' car we were encouraged by an otherwise positive performance in Malaysia and are pleased to have secured our first points so early in the season. The problem which prevented Jacques from starting the race has clearly been a primary focus during our test in Barcelona and Brazil should allow us to demonstrate the great strides we are making in terms of reliability."
"This race is another tough test of our car and drivers but we expect to improve our qualifying performance here with top 10 positions for both drivers. This should then translate into a better performance in the race when we will rely on the steps we have taken to maximise the tyres and the outstanding physical fitness of both drivers."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"We are pleased that we continue to demonstrate clear signs of our car's true potential and we go into Brazil feeling optimistic that we can build on our points-scoring performance in Malaysia two weeks ago. We enjoyed a very productive test in Barcelona in preparation for this race, which takes place at one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar and poses its own unique set of challenges."
"Although Interlagos is a medium-downforce track, it demands high aerodynamic efficiency and the right compromise between downforce and straight-line speed out of the last corner up the hill. Mechanical set-up is also critical here to help achieve the optimum level of traction for the infield section and to contend with this track's notoriously bumpy surface. As always, the weather conditions here can be very changeable which could make qualifying and the race very interesting."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"I'm looking forward to going to Interlagos, having really got the season off to a start by scoring our first points in Malaysia. We will be using the same specification engine in Brazil as we ran in Malaysia so I'm confident that we'll be competitive next weekend."