Japanese outfit Honda endured a trying qualifying session ahead of their home grand prix in Fuji with both their drivers languishing on the penultimate row of the grid and Asian rivals Toyota firmly in the top ten.
With only three races remaining the Brackley-based outfit have all but switched their focus to next year when they hope sweeping new technical regulations will help to level the playing field and provide them a platform on which to move up the grid.
But that was of little consolation to a visibly dejected Jenson Button who was again pipped by Rubens Barrichello for what was effectively a battle to avoid the last row of the grid.
“It has not been the best of days for us today but hopefully the race tomorrow will be better,” said the Briton.
“I have been struggling with the car for the whole weekend and have found it difficult to achieve a good balance. The car was better in the wet this morning, however the bumps and corner apexes are unsettling the car in the dry and we have not been able to resolve this.”
“I had too much understeer on my final run in qualifying today which made the car very twitchy and difficult to get round the corners and I was unable to improve my lap time. It’s disappointing but we just have to do our best with the package that we have.”
Team-mate Barrichello fared slightly better and could have vaulted further up the grid had he been able to extract the full potential from his car.
“Although my second run today was actually a good qualifying lap, unfortunately we are at the back of the midfield group where just another three-tenths would have been enough to put me in P10,” said the Brazilian.
“I was already right on the limit with my second run so we had to take a bit of a gamble with the final run and add a little more front wing. Unfortunately this led to the tyres graining by the second sector and I was not able to improve.”
“It’s a shame that we were unable to qualify better than this at our home race but we will do our best to make the most of any opportunities in the race tomorrow.”
Once again both Button and Barrichello showed signs of early pace but struggled the moment they switched to the option tyres.
“Unfortunately we were well aware in advance of this weekend that Fuji was going to be a difficult track for us given our current package,” explained Steve Clark.
“That fact does not make today’s result any less disappointing however. Obviously going into a dry qualifying after a wet morning was a little like venturing into the unknown as we were reliant upon the settings we made to the cars overnight.”
“In actual fact, early in the qualifying session, the cars were working quite well, certainly for Rubens. At the end of our first set of option tyres, both cars were comfortably in a position to progress to Q2.”
“We then switched to the second set of options and that’s where it all went wrong for both drivers. The option tyres have more grip but are also more delicate and they grained on both cars.”