Honda are hoping for intervention from the safety car in today’s European Grand Prix after a disastrous showing in qualifying left Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello languishing at the back of the field with their work cut out in the 57-lap race.
Button and Barrichello will line up sixteenth and nineteenth for the inaugural grand prix at Valencia, both drivers having run into problems in the opening knock-out qualifying session.
Button had impressed in both the Friday and Saturday practice sessions and was looking solid in Q1 on the prime hard tyres. But when the British ace swapped to the option soft tyres in the dying minutes, it all went horribly wrong and he struggled to extract any serious pace from his ill-handling RA108.
“My first run on the prime tyres was good but we simply chose the wrong tyre for my final run in Q1. I had no grip with the option and it just wasn’t very competitive for us.”
“My final run was slower than my prime run, which shouldn’t happen on a circuit which is improving all the time. I’m really disappointed as we have improved the car but we didn’t make the most of that.”
Rubens Barrichello meanwhile struggled with the balance of his car: “We were not able to find a balance on the car in practice this morning which affected our preparations for qualifying.”
“I particularly struggled with rear locking which cost me a lot of time as I wasn’t able to attack the lap. It’s very disappointing to be starting the first race here from so far back on the grid.”
Honda chief Steve Clark admits that the team’s only real hope of salvaging a decent result is if they can make up ground under a safety car period; a distinct possibility given the close proximity of the walls around the new 5.4km street circuit.
“From our grid positions the race will certainly be a challenge,” he said. “If the car is working well tomorrow the drivers will be up against slower cars ahead and we think overtaking is going to be difficult.”
“However race incidents are likely here. It could be very tricky off-line and, as we have seen from the other series, there are places from which cars are difficult to recover so safety cars are a real possibility.”
“We now need to focus on making our strategy as robust as possible to ensure we are well-placed to take advantage of any opportunities.”