After an exciting start to 2004 and two podium finishes in the first three races, the Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda team has good reason to be optimistic as it heads into the European Formula One season, which gets underway in San Marino next weekend.
After an exciting start to 2004 and two podium finishes in the first three races, the Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda team has good reason to be optimistic as it heads into the European Formula One season, which gets underway in San Marino next weekend. The first two races on the calendar are firm favourites for many of the drivers and the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix provided them with a fresh and exciting challenge. However, the return to Europe always provides the teams with a welcome boost and the benefit of the more familiar surroundings of their transporters and motorhomes.
The team arrives in Imola equal on points for third place in the Constructors' Championship, and with lead driver Jenson Button standing third in the Drivers' Championship, it is encouraging to see confirmation of the initial promise demonstrated by the B*A*R Honda 006 in winter testing.
The legendary 'Tifosi' stimulate a typically electric atmosphere at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit, but this year's proceedings are likely to be more subdued as the sport pays its respects on the anniversary of the tragic deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, both of whom lost their lives during the San Marino Grand Prix weekend a decade ago.
"It's nice to start our European campaign following a couple of podiums and points finishes. We will be hoping to keep the momentum going in Imola. The team are feeling confident and we are making good progress in testing."
"Our car has shown good reliability at the tests in Barcelona and Paul Ricard which is important. This week in Ricard we achieved 150 laps in a single day, exceeding the total number of laps the team has ever completed in a day's testing. In addition, the speed we have shown is very positive, so I think that we should be quite competitive in Imola. I'm sure that the top teams have also made a good step forward as well. It will be an interesting race weekend."
"Imola is a special place. It has a mix of different types of corners and a few chicanes, and the circuit is quite challenging. I always enjoy racing there and hopefully it should be another good weekend for us."
"My test plan for today was to complete the preparation for Imola, but I haven't been able to set any timed laps today because the weather hasn't been very good in Paul Ricard. It's disappointing for me as I have only raced in the San Marino Grand Prix once before, in 2002."
"Having said that, Jenson has had good conditions in which to conduct his testing here, and he has set some good lap times with the package we will be using next weekend, so it looks promising. In addition, from the testing that I conducted in Barcelona last week, I can see that we have taken a good step forward since Bahrain.
"Imola is a unique circuit; a good challenge with lots of high kerbs. The track is quite narrow and there are some tricky corners. I'm looking forward to it."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"The three-week break has given us an opportunity to regroup and evaluate the team's performance in the first three races. This year, we promised to take the fight to the top three teams and our current position in the drivers' and constructors' standings clearly shows that we can deliver against that target."
"Jenson is on a roll at the moment and the onus is on both team and driver in equal measure to maintain this momentum. Takuma's qualifying and race performances in Bahrain gave us a taste of what I'm sure will be some very exciting races ahead for him and the team. The challenge for us now is to maintain the fight with Williams and Renault, whilst finding a way of chipping away at Ferrari's dominance."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"The first three races have highlighted the competitiveness of our overall package, with the car performing well at each of those circuits. As we move into Europe, the challenge is to not only maintain our current level but to further strengthen our challenge, and to that end we will be introducing a revised aero and engine package for the forthcoming San Marino Grand Prix, together with a further step from Michelin. We have been evaluating these developments extensively in testing during the three-week break."
"The Imola circuit presents its own challenges, as a result of its stop-start nature between chicanes, so there is a premium on traction and braking performance. We introduced a revised braking system in Bahrain, which we were very happy with, and the Michelin tyres are well-suited to circuits with high traction demands. Generally speaking, we have every confidence that we will be able sustain our challenge next weekend."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"After the excellent results in Bahrain and Malaysia, we have had two weeks of testing at four European circuits, and this has been extremely useful. We have been able to resolve an engine problem experienced at Barcelona and all three of our drivers have put in a lot of work for aero and tyre developments. Everyone is working very hard to keep up our forward momentum and I am hopeful that we can continue this run in San Marino."