Following Jacques Villeneuve's decision to withdraw from competing in the Japanese Grand Prix, Takuma Sato, Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's current third driver and recently confirmed race driver for 2004, will be driving for the team this ...
Following Jacques Villeneuve's decision to withdraw from competing in the Japanese Grand Prix, Takuma Sato, Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's current third driver and recently confirmed race driver for 2004, will be driving for the team this weekend.
Takuma Sato set the 11th fastest time in today's first qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix while Jenson Button finished 16th.
Warm temperatures (air 26 degrees, track 22 degrees) but fairly cloudy skies greeted the drivers for the first free practice session at the Suzuka circuit. Both titles are still up for grabs as the final race of the championship approaches and there are battles to be decided throughout the grid. B.A.R Honda is fighting hard to secure fifth place in the constructors' championship with four other teams in contention.
B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button set the 18th quickest time and completed nine laps this morning, before his engine failed. His new team-mate Takuma Sato completed 20 laps, finishing 12th overall at the end of the morning.
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher kicked off the final first qualifying session of the season, as he is leading the drivers' championship. The air temperature remained at 26 degrees while the track temperature increased two degrees to 24. Button took to the track 12th in the running order for his one flying lap. The Briton struggled with understeer and set a time of 1m32.374s, finishing 16th overall.
Sato was the final driver out on track for his qualifying lap. The 26 year old put in a good clean lap to the delight of his home crowd and finished 11th overall, setting a time of 1m31.832s. For final qualifying tomorrow Button and Sato will take to the track in fifth and tenth position respectively.
Renault's Jarno Trulli set a fastest lap of 1m30.281s around the 5.807km/3.608 miles circuit, followed by the Schumacher brothers, Ralf (Williams) then Michael (Ferrari). The McLaren pairing of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth and fifth while Fernando Alonso (Renault) completes the top six.
Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"Both drivers pushed hard this afternoon. We are sorry that Jenson couldn't show his true potential due to lack of running time this morning caused by an engine failure. Takuma did a good job under the pressure of his first attempt at one-lap qualifying, which is exactly what we expected, having worked closely with him over the past few years."
Takuma Sato Position: 11th
"I've had a fantastic first day with the team and really enjoyed working with them to prepare for first qualifying, especially with Jock Clear. This is the first time I've taken part in one-lap qualifying, so that was very interesting. I'm reasonably happy with my lap. I lost a bit of time early but there's plenty of time for improvement throughout the rest of the weekend. Today I just wanted to take things steady, work through my programme and establish a good footing with the team and engineers. To be honest, I'm still coming to terms with actually being here racing this weekend, but I'm pleased to have had a good first day and I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the weekend."
Jenson Button Position: 16th
"It's really difficult at this circuit, especially when you aren't able to run many laps, as was the case this morning. I lost about 45 minutes as a result of an engine problem, and because of that, qualifying was a bit of a shot in the dark for me. There have been some substantial changes to the circuit this year and because of my limited running I haven't had the chance to work out where the braking areas are or to get the right balance; I had a bit too much understeer. I also didn't get the chance to run on new tyres or with low fuel. It didn't feel like a solid lap and this isn't a great start to a very important weekend for us. We have made it quite difficult for ourselves heading into tomorrow but things can only get better."