THE TEAM The 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship reaches the halfway point this weekend as the teams make the first of two visits to Germany for the European Grand Prix. After 8 rounds, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda are disappointed that points...
The 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship reaches the halfway point this weekend as the teams make the first of two visits to Germany for the European Grand Prix. After 8 rounds, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda are disappointed that points continue to prove elusive, however the team brought plenty of positives back from the last race in Canada.
The revised BAR004 proved to be a marked improvement on its predecessor in Montréal, helping B.A.R to its best overall performance of 2002. Olivier Panis was relieved to take the chequered flag for the first time this season, ending a run of seven successive DNFs. Whilst there was disappointment that an engine problem forced Jacques Villeneuve to retire in front of his home crowd after only 8 laps, he had at least had a taste of better things to come on Saturday when he qualified in a season's best 9th position. The team are confident that this progress will translate into a more competitive level of performance during the second half of the season.
After a brief stop-over at their Brackley HQ, some members of the team flew straight to Spain for a 3-day test in Jerez. Olivier Panis and Anthony Davidson each spent a day running through a programme of set-up and tyre work, whilst putting the latest aerodynamic modifications to the test in preparation for this weekend's race. Patrick Lemarie worked with the Honda development car for the full three days, for which the main focus was gathering data.
Honda's new engine makes its debut at the Nürburgring this weekend and will be used in Free Practice and Qualifying but not the race itself. B.A.R are optimistic that the new engine should contribute towards another step forward for the team.
Jacques has won twice at the Nürburgring in his six-year F1 career. In 1996, the European Grand Prix was his first ever win in only his 4th race with Williams and he finished on the top step of the podium again a year later here in the Grand Prix of Luxembourg. Olivier's best finish at the Nürburgring was a point-worthy 6th place in 1997. Last year, Jacques finished 9th but Olivier spun out of the race when an electrical fault affected his gear-change mechanism. This year, Jacques and Olivier are looking forward to sampling the latest revisions to the circuit's first corner which they both agree should make the track a little more interesting.
"I have fond memories of the Nürburgring. I won my first Grand Prix at this circuit and my last race win was here also. I've only failed to finish here once in six years so it's always been quite a successful circuit for me."
"Having said that, it's not a very exciting track to drive, and the fans are too far away to add any visual excitement. Most corners at the Nürburgring are slow, whereas I prefer a circuit with lots of mid-speed and high-speed turns. The first part of the track will be a new experience this year because the first corner has been changed. It looks like the racing might be better than before because there will be another heavy braking area."
"My first finish in Montréal was long overdue but still a huge relief because it is such a tough circuit. I hope it is a turning point for me and I can look forward to better luck during the rest of the season. I'm optimistic because of the improvement we saw there. The team have done a good job with the new car and we have the potential to be much more competitive than we have been so far this year."
"The Nürburgring has never been considered a particularly exciting track but the changes they've made to the first corner should make it better. It's a difficult circuit in terms of set-up and understeer can also be a big problem. However, we've made some aero improvements for this race and I am looking forward to using the new engine for the first time."
Germany's Nürburgring - host to five European GPs and two Luxembourg GPs since 1995 - is decidedly tame by comparison to its intimidating, 14-mile-long predecessor. However, this year there have been some major changes to the track layout, resulting in a lap length extension of some 560 metres. Turn one has been completely redeveloped and now cuts into the infield and around a new stadium section.
It is hoped that this evolution will yield an extra overtaking spot. The circuit remains a fairly high downforce track that is light on both brakes and tyres. Achieving a competitive lap time here requires all the normal chassis attributes: good traction (particularly out of the hairpins), good chassis balance and stability under braking, and the best possible compromise between downforce and straight-line speed. As the circuit is situated close to the Eifel Mountains, weather can often play a major role in the outcome of races at the Nürburgring.