First qualifying for this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix provided Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda with a further clear sign that they are back where they belong at the top end of the timesheets as Jenson Button posted the 5th fastest time of the session.
First qualifying for this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix provided Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda with a further clear sign that they are back where they belong at the top end of the timesheets as Jenson Button posted the 5th fastest time of the session. His team-mate Takuma Sato ended the day 10th.
Takuma and Jenson left the pit lane 7th and 8th respectively for the start of this crucial first session, which provided the first real indication of just how much of a step forward the teams have made following the introduction of their 'Imola upgrades'.
Boosted by a smooth morning's progress in the last two free practice sessions of the weekend, both drivers were aware that their early qualifying runs - determined by the retirements in Bahrain - would compromise their chances of finishing at the very top of the timesheets.
Nonetheless, with just 0.7sec separating 3rd and 13th places and encouraging signs that there is more to come from the revised B*A*R Honda 007, the team are optimistic for tomorrow's race.
"I am reasonably happy considering the position we started in for qualifying. My lap was going really well until the last sector, when I had too much understeer. At least it has shown that we are have made some big improvements and are on the pace."
"It would have nice to be on pole here, but if we are in the top five tomorrow I will be very happy because I think the car is strong enough for us to make the best of every opportunity in tomorrow's race."
"We had good pace in free practice this morning. We knew we were going to be affected by running early in the session with the track conditions certain to improve for the drivers running later. Although I struggled with grip a little, I am reasonably pleased with my lap and everybody's lap time in the top ten is so close together."
"Because of this, I feel that tomorrow morning I have a good chance of improving my position on the grid for the race. The two weeks' testing in Barcelona and Paul Ricard is paying off though and we are confident that we will be able to get our season started here in Imola."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting director:
"After very strong morning sessions, we had set our sights high for this afternoon's qualifying. However, we were also conscious that with early start times it was going to be difficult to get into the top positions. Both drivers had good qualifying laps and we are very pleased with the progress we have made generally since the last race. We now feel confident for tomorrow's second qualifying session and the race."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering director, Honda Racing Development:
"With both of the drivers in the top ten it shows that we have definitely made good progress. I am looking forward to 2nd qualifying and the race tomorrow, as it will be very exciting with so many cars so closely matched."
Chassis: BAR Honda 007-04
Chassis: BAR Honda 007-02