FIA Formula One World Championship - Round 17 Japanese GP, 8-10 October 2004 Race
Podium For Button And P4 For Sato In Honda's Home GP
B.A.R Honda's Button and Sato race to third and fourth at Suzuka
The Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda pairing of Jenson Button and Takuma Sato put in another impressive performance at Suzuka this afternoon, bringing their cars home in third and fourth place in the Japanese Grand Prix. The result was Button's 10th and the team's 11th podium this season, Sato's best ever finish at Suzuka, Honda's first home race podium of its third generation of F1 participation, Sato's third consecutive points finish at Suzuka and the third race in a row in which the B.A.R Honda duo has scored 11 points.
Having qualified his B.A.R Honda 006 fifth, Button got away well, making up two places to P3 as Jaguar's Mark Webber fell back and the Briton squeezed past team-mate Sato. On lap nine Button was passed for third place by Sato but by lap 13 was running in P2 as Ralf Schumacher (Williams) and Sato pitted. Button pitted for his first of two scheduled stops on lap 15, at the same time as McLaren's David Coulthard, rejoining ahead of the Scot in fourth place behind Sato.
By lap 27 Honda-powered Button was back up into second place as Ralf Schumacher and Sato left the action for the pit lane, the B.A.R Honda driver pitting for his own second stop on lap 36 from P2. After a clean nine-second stop, Button rejoined behind Sato in fourth position and moved up into third place on lap 42 when Ralf Schumacher pitted. Button continued to push hard for the remainder of the 53 lap race and went on to claim his 10th podium of the year in B.A.R's 100th Grand Prix, bringing his B.A.R Honda 006 home in third place to score Honda's first home race podium of its third era of F1 participation.
Sato remained in P4 off the grid, outpacing third-placed Webber but being passed by his team-mate at turn one. The three-stopping Japanese star was hot on Button's tail and got past him on lap six for P3, moving up into second place on lap nine when Ralf Schumacher pitted. Four laps later saw the first of Sato's three scheduled stops. Having rejoined in seventh behind Jacques Villeneuve's Renault, he dived down the inside of the Canadian on the next lap and set his sights on fifth-placed Fernando Alonso (Renault).
By lap 27, when Honda-powered Sato came in for his second pit stop, the Japanese ace was running in second position as others had pitted before him. Sato rejoined in sixth place behind Alonso but was back up into P2 by lap 40 due to the stops of Coulthard, Alonso, Button and Ralf Schumacher. Two laps later the B.A.R Honda driver came in for his own final stop, rejoining in fourth position, six seconds ahead of Alonso.
Fourth-placed Sato began to reel in team-mate Button but was still 11.7 seconds off the Briton on lap 44. Despite a problem with his HANS device troubling him for the remainder of the race, Sato showed good pace and went on to cross the line fourth, to score his best ever finish at Suzuka. Today's 11 points further strengthens B.A.R Honda's second place in the constructors' championship. The team has 116 points compared to third-placed Renault's 100.
Blue skies and sunshine appeared at Suzuka at the beginning of the afternoon (track 32, air 28 degrees) and it remained fine and dry for the Japanese Grand Prix, which was won by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher. He was joined on the podium by brother Ralf Schumacher (Williams) and B.A.R Honda's Jenson Button. Behind fourth-placed Takuma Sato in the second B.A.R Honda came Fernando Alonso (Renault) and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen in fifth and sixth while Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella took the final two point-scoring positions.
Jenson Button Position: 3rd
"Achieving another podium is a fantastic result here as we celebrate B.A.R's 100th Grand Prix and the 40th year since Honda's F1 debut, so I'm very happy. It's also a great team result, with Taku finishing 4th and our combined result enabling us to pull even further ahead of Renault. The car was very difficult to drive at first because with a two-stop strategy I was very heavy on fuel. As we got further into the race though, the car felt great and, once again, two-stopping really paid off for me. I think the last few races have demonstrated a great team effort by B.A.R, with Takuma and I achieving exactly the results we needed to beat Renault. The whole team should be very proud of that. There is still one race remaining though and although Renault will have a very very tough job on their hands to beat us, we'll wait until Brazil before celebrating what has been a pretty amazing year for B.A.R."
Takuma Sato Position: 4th
"It was great that we managed to have a race this afternoon after yesterday's cancellation, although it was extremely difficult to work out the set-up as we were not able to practice on a dry track. That's why we ran two different strategies to enable us to cope with the widest range of possibilities. As it turned out, I was not able to get the result that I wanted and be on the podium, but at the end of the day, it was a great result for the team and really helps us to secure 2nd in the Constructors' Championship. I felt so much support from my home fans; they were fantastic and really motivated me during the race. We have one more race left in Brazil and I will be doing my best to have another strong race performance there."
Shuhei Nakamoto – Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
A 10th podium for Jenson, and Taku's best ever Suzuka finish is a pleasing result. Both drivers coped really well with qualifying on a drying track and drove very solid races. If I'm being greedy, I'd say it's a shame Taku couldn't join Jenson on the podium at his home race. We'll be aiming to round off the season with a strong performance at Interlagos!