FIA Formula One World Championship - Round 15 Italy GP, 10-12 September 2004 Race
B.A.R Honda's Button Takes Eighth Podium Finish At Monza
Button and Sato race to third and fourth place in thrilling Italian GP
The Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda pairing of Jenson Button and Takuma Sato put in an impressive performance at Monza today, bringing their cars home in third and fourth place in the Italian Grand Prix, notching up 11 points and moving the team up into second place in the constructors' championship, three points clear of Renault.
The overcast skies cleared around lunchtime and there was no sign of the heavy morning rain as the drivers prepared for the start of the 53 lap race. The changeable weather conditions created a dilemma for the teams as they had to decide whether to use dry or intermediate tyres.
Honda-powered Sato and Button, both on dry tyres, got away well from fifth and sixth on the grid, racing side-by-side for position into Ascari. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who started third, seemed to be out of contention when he spun at the second chicane on lap one and fell back to 15th place.
Button, who was clearly on an early charge, was running in second place by lap five, having shot past Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) and Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and gained a place as Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) left the action for a pit stop. Lap 10 saw Button take the lead as Renault's Fernando Alonso pitted and the Briton used the next five laps to set some blistering times before coming in for his first of two scheduled stops on lap 15. Button rejoined in the lead ahead of Alonso and by lap 18 had pulled out an impressive three second lead.
By lap 28 the top five cars were separated by just 6.8 seconds and the B.A.R Honda star's lead was down to just under a second as the Spaniard started to reel him in. Button pitted for the second and final time on lap 34, a neat and tidy 9.1 second stop, rejoining the action in P3 ahead of Alonso and moving up into second place two laps later as Schumacher, who had picked his way through the field during the first half of the race, pitted from the lead.
On lap 41 third placed Alonso spun out of the race and Schumacher started to close in on Button, taking second place from the Briton on lap 43. The B.A.R Honda driver continued to push hard and went on to cross the line third to score his eighth and the team's ninth podium finish of the 2004 season.
Having fallen back to P7 at the start, Sato fought his way up into third place by lap 13; a combination of a neat overtaking manoeuvre past Sauber's Felipe Massa and those ahead of him leaving the action for the pit lane. Following his first of two stops on lap 13, the Honda-powered driver rejoined in seventh position but moved up into fifth place behind Barrichello as the pit stop sequence unfolded.
Sato remained close to the front four, battling hard and setting consistently quick lap times in the middle part of the race. Having taken P4 on lap 29 when Barrichello pitted, the Japanese ace peeled off into the pits in sequence with Alonso and Montoya on lap 33, the threesome rejoining in the same order further down the field. By lap 36 Sato was running in P5 and five laps later took fourth position as Alonso retired from the race.
Sato fought hard during the remaining 12 laps and went on to finish the race in fourth position, following team-mate Button across the line, scoring five valuable championship points for himself and the team. Today's solid two-car points-finish moves B.A.R Honda up into second place in the constructors' championship on 94 points ahead of closest rival Renault on 91 points.
Ferrari scored a one-two in front of its home crowd today, Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher finishing first and second ahead of the B.A.R Honda duo of Jenson Button and Takuma Sato. Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya in P5 and Antonio Pizzonia in P7 sandwiched the McLaren of David Coulthard in sixth place while Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella took the final point scoring position.
Jenson Button Position: 3rd
"It's fantastic for B.A.R Honda to move into second in the Constructors' Championship after such a great result today. We came very close to our first victory here but third and fourth for myself and Taku is amazing and I dedicate this podium to the team who have done a great job all weekend. I didn't think the Ferraris were going to be that strong from what we could see earlier in the race, but all credit to them for turning things around in the closing stages. We did a good job to get into third place by the first stops and we had a strong race, but unfortunately not as strong as the Ferraris. In the end I focused on looking after the tyres and extending the gap between myself and Alonso. I think we have an exciting end to the season ahead of us and I now look forward to the challenge of a new race in China in two weeks time."
Takuma Sato Position: 4th
"It was a very spectacular race. We started in damp conditions with half the circuit still wet, so I think everyone seemed to struggle a bit in the beginning. My start was good but I could not pull away at the exit of the first chicane, so I lost quite a few places. Once the conditions improved though I was able to get back on the pace. The most important thing is that the team has come home second in the Championship and the momentum from today must be carried forward for the last three races of the season, which will be extremely exciting."
Shuhei Nakamoto – Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"I am very happy. Both drivers did an excellent job today, our lap times were strong throughout the race and neither made any mistakes. Although it is a good feeling to be second in the world championship we are conscious of the performance gap to Ferrari and know we have a lot of work to do."