FIA Formula One World Championship - Round 10 French GP, 2-4 July 2004 Race
B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button Finishes Fifth In France
Button crosses the line fifth while Sato retires on lap 16
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button crossed the line fifth in today's French Grand Prix while team-mate Takuma Sato, who started from seventh on the grid, retired from the action on lap 16 with engine failure.
From fourth on the grid, Button got away smoothly and as the cars around him reshuffled he remained in P4, Jarno Trulli's Renault getting ahead of him but fellow countryman David Coulthard (McLaren) falling back one place behind him. Honda-powered Button was running in second place by lap 13 as the front-runners pitted and left the track for his first stop at the same time as race-leader Fernando Alonso (Renault) on lap 14.
As the first round of stops was completed Button was again running in fourth place behind Trulli. The B.A.R Honda star showed good pace and put in consistently quick laps for the second stint of the race but was not able to get past the Italian. The second pit stop sequence on lap 29 moved Button up to P3, which is the position he pitted from on lap 30.
Rejoining in fourth position, the British driver was tucked up behind third placed Trulli for the next 19 laps until the Italian pitted on lap 49. Button held off the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello and pushed hard to set the fastest lap of his race so far, before pitting from P3 on lap 52. Despite a hesitant getaway from his box, the B.A.R Honda driver was neck and neck with Trulli as he exited the pit lane, but he couldn't get past and was cruelly pushed down to fifth place as Barrichello also snuck through. Button continued to challenge for the remainder of the race and was two or three tenths of a second from the battle for the final podium position, but he wasn't able to get close enough to overtake and had to settle for fifth at the end of the day, under a second shy of third place.
It was not a good end to the weekend for Button's team-mate Sato, who fell back one place at the start to eighth but managed to hold off Barrichello until lap four when the Brazilian pushed him back to P9. The B.A.R Honda driver was up into third position by lap 14 due to those ahead pitting and one lap later came in for his own first scheduled stop. Having rejoined in 11th place ahead of the Jaguar of Mark Webber, Sato was forced out of the action when his engine failed on lap 16.
In beautiful blue skies and glorious sunshine (28 degrees) Michael Schumacher won the 70 lap French Grand Prix and was joined on the podium by Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who stole third place from Jarno Trulli (Renault) in the final corner on the last lap. B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button and the McLaren duo of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, sixth and seventh while Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) took the final point scoring position.
Jenson Button Position: 5th
“I’m very disappointed because we expected to do a lot better here and fifth is not good enough. The strategy was working well for us but at the last pit stop the engine went into anti-stall mode and cost me the time advantage that could have put us on the podium. We lost a possible third place today and, with Taku’s problem, two much-needed points finishes, having worked so hard to close the gap to Renault. They had a good result today so we really have to have solved these problems going into our home race.”
Takuma Sato Position: DNF
“It is a shame that I could not finish the race after our performance in Indy. The lap times were very close and everybody was competitive, so it was a tough race. I immediately felt a loss of power after the pitstop and we knew there was a problem down the main straight but there was nothing we could do. It was a different problem than before - not sudden but gradual. We have only a week to look into the problem before the team’s home race at Silverstone which is one of the most important races on the calendar.”
Shuhei Nakamoto – Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"It was a good battle between Jenson, Jarno and Rubens but I am of course disappointed we missed out on the podium place. It is a shame that Taku’s engine failed again so we will work very hard this week to find the cause and put a counter measure in place for the next race at Silverstone."
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