FIA Formula One World Championship - Round 16 Chinese GP, 24-26 September 2004 Race
Button Races To Sensational Second At Shanghai
B.A.R Honda's Button and Sato finish second and sixth in China
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button drove a sensational race at Shanghai today, bringing his car home in second place in the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix. Japanese team-mate Takuma Sato put in an equally impressive performance, racing from 18th on the grid to finish sixth. Today's points haul of 11 strengthens B.A.R Honda's second place in the constructors' championship and guarantees the team will finish at least third. B.A.R Honda now has 105 points and is nine points ahead of closest rival Renault.
Having qualified third on the grid for the 56 lap race, Button got away smoothly but battled with Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Felipe Massa (Sauber), falling back to P5 behind Massa by the end of lap one. The B.A.R Honda driver shot past the Brazilian two laps later and started to reel in third-placed Alonso. The Briton, who was clearly on a charge, snatched P3 from Alonso on lap seven, and went on to set a string of fastest laps.
Lap 12 saw Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen peel off into the pits, moving Button into the lead. The Honda-powered star came in for his own first of two scheduled stops on lap 14, rejoining the action in third place behind Raikkonen. Button continued to set consistently quick laps and moved up into P2 on lap 27 when the McLaren driver pitted. Having reclaimed the lead two laps later when Barrichello pitted, Button left the race action for his second and final stop on lap 35, getting back on track in third position.
One lap later the B.A.R Honda driver was back up into second place as three-stopping Raikkonen pitted again. Button started to catch race-leader Barrichello but the Brazilian managed to maintain enough of a lead to rejoin ahead of him in first place after his third and final pit stop on lap 42.
Having driven a stunning race, Button pushed hard and chipped away at the Ferrari driver's lead, gaining on him by almost half a second a lap during the closing stages. Button went on to cross the line in P2, just one second off Barrichello, to score his ninth and the team's 10th podium finish this season.
Sato, who started from 18th on the grid as Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner was demoted to 19th due to an engine change on Saturday, made up four places to 14th at the start. On lap three the Japanese ace dived past Nick Heidfeld's Jordan for P13 and by lap 16 was up into fourth place behind team-mate Button as those ahead of him pitted. Two laps later Sato came in for his first of two visits to the pits, and after a good clean nine-second stop, rejoined the action in 11th place ahead of Montoya.
By lap 34 Honda-powered Sato was back up into P4 as the second pit stop sequence unfolded. Four laps later Sato pitted, one of the last two-stopping drivers to do so, in tandem with Montoya. Sato rejoined in seventh position ahead of the Colombian, who then went on to overtake the Japanese driver, pushing him down to P8. By lap 46 the B.A.R Honda ace was running in sixth place due to the pit stops of Fisichella and Massa.
The last 10 laps were fairly uneventful for Sato, who drove a superb race to finish an impressive sixth, having started from 18th on the grid. Today's result was B.A.R Honda's sixth two-car points-finish and strengthens its second place in the constructors' championship. The team now has 105 points and is nine points clear of third-placed Renault. Button lies third in the drivers' championship on 79 points while Sato has 26 points and is currently in eighth place.
The weather remained hot and sunny and fairly humid (track 36, air 29 degrees) at Shanghai as Rubens Barrichello won the first-ever Chinese Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver was joined on the podium by B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen. Fernando Alonso (Renault), Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya and B.A.R Honda's Takuma Sato crossed the line fourth, fifth and sixth while the Sauber pairing of Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa took the final two point scoring positions.
Jenson Button Position: 2nd
"It's fantastic to finish on the podium in the first-ever Chinese Grand Prix and to achieve my fourth second place finish this season. We came here needing to keep Renault at bay for second in the championship and a nine-point lead is exactly what we were looking for. It's a great result for the whole team and well done to them for a great job. I didn't get a good start; in fact losing two places off the grid was disastrous. Today proved again that our first win is getting closer but starts are something we'll need to look at before we can take the next step up. Our strategy was good but it was so hard to push versus the three-stoppers, so in the end I had to concentrate on keeping Raikkonen behind me. It's been a great race for B.A.R Honda, China and F1 and I'm looking forward to keeping up the fight in Japan in two weeks time."
Takuma Sato Position: 6th
"This is a great result for the team! I am delighted with our performance today, with one car on the podium and my car starting from the back of the grid still scoring good points. I fought a hard battle having heavy fuel on board, but I was able to enjoy the race and at the end of the day to be able to finish in sixth place is a great team effort. I am happy that we have moved even further ahead of Renault. This first Chinese Grand Prix has been a great success with really exciting racing and I am now really looking forward to the next race at Suzuka."
Shuhei Nakamoto – Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"I think we put on a good show for the new Chinese audience today. Both drivers clearly gave it everything and we have done very well to get them both solidly into the points. Let's go one better at Suzuka next time!"