Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, Kuala Lumpur 15-17 March PREVIEW The Team The 2002 season got off to a less than ideal start at the Australian Grand Prix when half the grid was decimated by a first corner incident.
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, Kuala Lumpur
The 2002 season got off to a less than ideal start at the Australian Grand Prix when half the grid was decimated by a first corner incident. Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda were bitterly disappointed to see Olivier Panis eliminated as he tried to avoid other cars caught up in the chaos. Jacques Villeneuve was one of the lucky survivors but a possible points-scoring finish eluded him when the rear wing of the BAR004 broke off on his 27th lap.
The team left Melbourne with two DNFs to ponder and an acknowledgement by Team Principal, David Richards, that a great deal of work still needs to be done. Investigations at the Brackley Operations Centre concluded that the wing failure was due to fatigue and design modifications have been implemented to prevent a repetition of the problem.
In preparation for next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, the team completed a two-day test at Silverstone (Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th March), with test driver Anthony Davidson running through a programme of aerodynamic and engine development work in the BAR004/01.
The Sepang circuit hasn't been the most successful for the team over the past three years, although Jacques did finish 5th in 2000 and has always qualified in the top 10. Olivier has only competed in two of the three races held there and has yet to cross the finish line. 2001 brought disappointment in the form of two DNFs; Olivier suffered an oil system problem on his 2nd lap and a sudden downpour led to Jacques' demise when he spun out after 4 laps.
David Richards, Team Principal
"Australia really served to underline my view that we have some pretty fundamental issues to address. Before we do anything else we have got to get the basics right, by which I mean maximising the output from what we have already. Until we have got that sorted we cannot move on to developing our technology and performance to the highest level.
"As for Malaysia, it is always a tough race and once again will serve as an intense pressure test of all aspects of the team's performance. I certainly hope that the team can get much closer to extracting the real potential from the car, which should by rights be inside the top ten in both qualifying and the race. Apart from anything we need to get both cars to the end so that we can collect valuable information for ourselves and Honda."
Jacques Villeneuve on the Malaysian Grand Prix
"I'm looking forward to racing in Malaysia. It's a challenging race and the hot atmospheric conditions make it physically demanding. Like the Melbourne track, it is a long lap, which I enjoy. There are a couple of very long straights with tight corners.
"Our car should be fairly competitive. I'm disappointed that we didn't finish the race in Melbourne as we could easily have been in the points there. We have all the right elements in place to fight for points finishes, we just need to raise our game."
Olivier Panis on the Malaysian Grand Prix
"The Malaysian Grand Prix is a big challenge as it isn't easy to get a perfect set-up. The straight is so long and you need to have good speed to overtake but you also need good mechanical grip for the low-speed corners. In the wet, grip levels are quite good, but when it rains hard..wow, it really does rain! You almost need a boat, not a car! This is the worst problem, because we need to have the safety car out quickly. Without it, everybody would go off.
"The circuit is a really nice design, with high speed and low speed corners. The designers have done a fabulous job. You are always turning and changing gear, although now we have automatic up and downshift, which makes it easier compared with last year!
"Last year I had a technical problem on the 2nd lap and had to retire. It was frustrating for me because I made the right tyre choice for the rain and the car was really competitive. I hope this year will be better as I was very disappointed that I couldn't fight for some points after going out of the race in Australia. I hope we can demonstrate a bit more of the car's potential in Malaysia."
Race Distance - 55 Laps. 189.420 miles (304.865 km)
Circuit Length - 3.444 miles (5.543km)
Race Start - 15.00 local time (07.00 GMT)
Situated 30 miles south of Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur, the superb Sepang circuit hosts the Malaysian Grand Prix for the fourth time next Sunday.
Devised by Hermann Tilke, it is a visually dramatic, beautifully equipped facility that sets the standard for F1 circuits in the 21st Century and has been lavished with much praise by teams and drivers alike since joining the World Championship in 1999. The demanding, 15-turn, 5.543km track features a pair of parallel straights plus a combination of low and medium-speed corners that really test the drivers. Indeed, Sepang is regarded as one of the most physically demanding tracks in the world. The surface is wide and smooth with overtaking most likely to occur under braking for the tight corners at the end of each straight.
Sepang also provides wonderful spectator facilities, including a unique "double-sided" 30,000-seat grandstand with an unusual roof in the shape of an hibiscus - the national flower of Malaysia.