BAR Race Preview
|BAR Honda made a promising start to the new Formula One season in Australia two weeks ago. Although impressive performances throughout the practice and qualifying sessions were somewhat overshadowed on race day, the team took away many positives from Melbourne, not least that BAR were one of only four teams to get both cars to the chequered flag at the first Grand Prix of the season.
The team is upbeat and determined as they head to Malaysia this week for the 5th Formula One Grand Prix at the impressive and challenging Sepang circuit. BAR has finished in the points once before in Kuala Lumpur with Jacques Villeneuve's 5th place in 2000 being the team's best result here. Jenson Button drove arguably the best race of his career here last year, only to be deprived of his first podium position on the final lap when his car developed a rear-suspension problem.
Third driver Takuma Sato flew to Jerez in Spain last week from stand-by duty in Melbourne where he undertook a three-day test programme alongside McLaren, Williams and Toyota. The team put the latest aerodynamic developments through their paces in preparation for Malaysia, together with a Bridgestone tyre programme and some distance work with the latest specification of the Honda engine. Takuma's best lap time was the fastest set by any driver over the course of the test.
In the meantime, race drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button have both undertaken rigorous training programmes since Melbourne, in preparation for the intense Malaysian heat and humidity.
Jacques Villeneuve on the Malaysian Grand Prix
"After Australia I returned to Switzerland to continue my intensive training regime with Erwin. The best way to prepare for any race and the season in general is to train. As with every year, I will be travelling to Malaysia early to acclimatise. It's best to spend time there before the race weekend.
"Our race in Australia was a disappointment. We were quite competitive throughout the weekend, but due to the lack of laps it didn't allow us to do our homework properly in preparation for the race, particularly where our tyres were concerned. So we were unable to carry our competitiveness through to the race and fight for a podium finish.
"I don't think that you can really judge how effective the new regulations were in the race in Australia. Qualifying was definitely exciting on both days, but the weather conditions made the race, which affected tyre choices. I think we will have to wait until Malaysia to see the full effect of the regulations.
"The Sepang circuit is a fun track. There are a few bits that I don't like that much, such as turn 2 and the very tight hairpin. It's a very long lap and the race is very difficult mainly because of the heat. Hopefully our radio problems will be fixed by Malaysia, as this was one of our problems in Australia. Radio communication is very important and will be a major factor in our next race. The car is competitive, however we will have to wait and see what the next race weekend brings."
Jenson / BAR005 in the opening race of this season
Jenson Button on the Malaysian Grand Prix:
"Almost everything about the Australian Grand Prix was very encouraging to me. We demonstrated good pace in qualifying and proved that we can be competitive this season, which is very exciting. Aside from a disappointing race outcome, both cars finished in Melbourne so it shows how much we have improved our reliability following winter testing.
"After Melbourne, I spent a week in Port Douglas in Northern Queensland acclimatising to the heat and humidity expected in Malaysia this weekend. It's pretty tough on everyone, especially the mechanics and the drivers, but I'm really looking forward to this race. It's normally the race where the teams start to get their reliability in order and you really see how quick the competition is. Australia gave us a reasonable indication but the weather was a major factor.
"Sepang is a circuit that I've always enjoyed racing on. It's very different to most Formula One circuits because it has a lot of straights and it's very wide. An F1 car looks pretty miniature; it looks like a Scalextric car on the circuit. It's good fun to drive and I've always seemed to go well there. If we can stay reliable and harness the potential we demonstrated in Melbourne, I'd like to think we can look forward to our first points of the season this weekend."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"A disappointing race result in Melbourne two weeks ago overshadowed what was actually a very positive Grand Prix debut for the B-A-R Honda 005. We were delighted with our qualifying performances and they were a very satisfying representation of our overall pace. We are also encouraged that both drivers completed a race distance with no mechanical reliability issues whatsoever.
"All in all, we have a competitive car and we're in very good shape for a positive season ahead. On an equally optimistic note, Formula One in general is looking good after one of the most entertaining Grand Prix we've seen for a long time.
"We have every reason to feel positive for the next race in Malaysia. Takuma Sato completed some further development work with Honda's latest specification engine in testing last week and this should deliver an extra performance boost for the weekend and contribute to what I'm sure will be a more positive race result for BAR."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"We were very pleased with the performance of the car in Australia and although we were confident in our work it was still rewarding to have both cars finish the race. This is an excellent reflection on the team who have worked so hard not just during pre-season testing but also through the whole design and build programme. Aside from our radio communication problems and failure to make our strategy fit the events of the race, we adapted well to the discipline of the new format race weekend.
"We go into Malaysia knowing that we have a competitive car and two very determined drivers so we can only continue to improve for the next race and beyond."
Honda engineers in the pitbox
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"We were encouraged by our speed over the weekend in Australia and are aiming to turn that into points this time. We have solved the parts problem that we experienced on Friday in Melbourne and will be running the more powerful specification engine. It's always hard work in the heat of Kuala Lumpur but we are heading there with high hopes."
Race Distance - 56 laps 192.878 miles (310.408 km)
Circuit Length - 3.444 miles (5.543 km)
Race Start - 15.00 local time (07.00 GMT)
Devised by Hermann Tilke, the Sepang circuit 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 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 a hibiscus - the national flower of Malaysia.