Albert Park, site of the Oz Grand Prix
Fast Forward to 2003...
Among these rules are the following:
1. Points awarded back to 8th place
1st - 10
2nd - 8
3rd - 6
4th - 5
5th - 4
6th - 3
7th - 2
8th - 1
2. Head And Neck restraint System (HANS) is now mandatory. This is becoming a worry bead for Jacques and others..they cannot seem to get comfortable and there's the question of driver pain/distraction raising a safety issue.
3. Changes to the weekend format. The FIA is making my head spin on this issue. We've all publicly heard about the major rules changes (Friday and Saturday Qualifying, Friday testing, one lap qualifying, cars to be locked down in parc ferme after Sat. Qualifying, electronics gone at Silverstone, no spare cars, etc.).
What we HAVEN'T seen or heard about is the ENORMOUS number of red-ink revisions to the sporting code that the FIA has been forcing through in the last two weeks. In order to make these new rules stick, they're having to rewrite nearly ALL of the regulations that cover and govern the sport!!! This will inevitably lead to foul ups and missteps in the course of the season. This does not bode well for the stability of the F1 rules this season.
4. Jordan have moved to Cosworth power. After two relatively fruitless seasons with Honda as a works engine supplier, Jordan and Honda have parted ways. I want to wish Jordan the best. I feel that they have some underrated personnel and a badly underrated driver in Fisichella.
What does all this mean for Honda's fans? Well, I do have a few thoughts.
With qualifying being a single lap now and the cars being locked away in parc ferme, race pace will be a major goal for the race team throughout the weekend. Also, with such limited practice and setup time, reliability will be key. In spite of what we saw at a few weekends last year, I think Honda should be all right with this.
The main question will be if the BAR will be reliable through the weekend. If electrical or gearbox or hydraulic problems begin to crop up, we could be in for a very long season. BAR has seemed to occasionally have these kinds of gremlins appear for a few races...this will be less tolerable now.
Jensen Button driving the BAR 005
On the upside (!), BAR's pace this year has looked very good in testing. Assuming that the times were generated in racing trim, BAR should be in good shape. The strategy for teams like BAR-Honda will undoubtedly be to qualify heavy on fuel and then use good racing pace and setup to win long-run over the light-qualify/early-pit crowd.
Honda's engine seems to be doing much better than a year ago, in terms of how on-target they've gotten. Despite comments to the contrary, Honda has been moving forward briskly with development...debuting new specs and modifications at each test to address the major concerns that crop up with such a young motor architecture.
BAR have found solutions to reliability woes that smote them early on in testing. They'll need to stay on top of it but, with G. Willis in charge, I think we can be comfortable that problems will not stay in place for long!
Speed Channel will be providing coverage this year, again! :) The time will be 9:30pm EST on March 8th. See you there and good luck to the team!!!