|Formula One World Championship
Round 16: Japan Prix
Honda Races to Fourth and Sixth at Suzuka
Lucky Strike BAR Honda's Jenson Button crossed the line fourth at the Japanese Grand Prix while teammate Takuma Sato finished sixth on his race debut with the team. Today's result secured fifth place in the constructors' championship for BAR Honda with 26 points.
The overcast weather continued at Suzuka and rain seemed possible as the drivers lined up on the grid for the last time this season in preparation for the 53-lap race, the air and track temperatures registering 21 and 23 degrees.
Button moved up one position to eighth off the grid and inherited seventh on lap nine due to the retirement of Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams. By lap 12 the Briton was running in second place as the front-runners started to pit. Three laps later the BAR Honda driver pitted from first place for his first of two scheduled stops (8.5 seconds), rejoining in sixth place between the Toyotas of Cristiano Da Matta and Olivier Panis.
Button improved to fifth on lap 18 when the engine in Alonso's Renault let go and by lap 25 was up into third place as the second round of pit stops commenced. Lap 33 saw the Briton's second scheduled stop for fuel and tyres (9.5 seconds). Having rejoined in seventh, Button continued to set consistently quick lap times and was running in fourth position by lap 38 when the Schumacher brothers and Da Matta pitted for the third time. The Honda-powered driver held off Renault's Jarno Trulli and pushed hard for the final 15 laps to cross the line fourth, scoring five valuable championship points for himself and the team.
Sato made a great start and moved up two places to 11th off the grid, holding off Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and on lap two diving past Jaguar's Justin Wilson for tenth position. Having got past the second Jaguar of Mark Webber on lap four, Sato was hit from behind by Schumacher on lap six. Fortunately Sato's car wasn't damaged but Schumacher was relegated to 19th after pitting for repairs.
The 26-year-old Japanese driver was running in second place by lap 12 behind teammate Jenson Button, due to Montoya's exit and the front-runners pitting. Sato came in for his first stop on lap 14 (8.5 seconds), rejoining in tenth position ahead of Ralf Schumacher. By lap 21 the BAR Honda driver was in eighth place as Alonso retired and Webber pitted. The Schumacher brothers hounded Sato for four laps before pitting on lap 24, along with Da Matta and Panis, moving the Honda-powered driver up into sixth position.
Following his second and final pit stop on lap 32 (9.9 seconds) Sato rejoined the action in tenth place and seven laps later had made his way back up in to sixth position due to the pit stops of Michael and Ralf Schumacher and the Toyota duo, the two-stop strategy clearly paying off for both Button and Sato. The Japanese driver continued to impress for the final 14 laps and brought his BAR Honda 005 home in sixth place, having started 13th on the grid, scoring three points and helping the team secure fifth place in the championship.
Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello won the eventful race, followed by the McLaren pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard. BAR Honda's Button, Renault's Trulli and BAR Honda's Sato finished fourth, fifth and sixth while the Toyota of da Matta and Ferrari of Michael Schumacher took the final two point scoring positions.
Michael Schumacher's eighth place finish was enough to clinch the drivers' championship for the German with 93 points and the constructors' championship for Ferrari with 158 points.
Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"A great way to end the season, especially in front of our home crowd. Both our guys were really strong out there and our strategy worked perfectly. Jenson pushed hard and showed good pace throughout the race and Taku coped brilliantly with the pressure of a home debut. I'm also very pleased that we secured fifth in the constructors' championship today. The car worked really well and the boys did a great job on all the stops. I want to use this as a springboard for next season."
Jenson Button 4th
"That was incredible! We came here fighting for two points and came away with eight, which is just amazing. We really deserved this result today and to finally secure fifth place in the championship is a great way for the team to finish the season.
"It was a very tough race though. I got a great start and took Webber on the outside, which was very important for us at that stage as we didn't know what strategy they were running. I had two perfect pit stops and after that it was just a question of conserving everything and staying as consistent as possible, because it's hard to keep your concentration here. It was nice to lead the race again for the second race in a row - even if it was only briefly on this occasion.
"Takuma has been under a lot of pressure all weekend and he rose above it. I'd like to thank Honda for a fantastic race engine and all the race team for a great job this weekend, especially in the pit stops today. I'd also like to pay tribute to the team back at base for sticking with it during a very difficult year. This is a great boost for all of us for the winter."
Takuma Sato 6th
"I'm absolutely thrilled. Racing here this weekend came as a total surprise but to finish sixth and play a part in securing fifth place in the championship is just amazing. And all in front of my home crowd! I made a great start and jumped two places off the grid, then I managed to pass Wilson and Webber, which was important for the team. I had a close call with Michael in the chicane, but I had the line and he came up on the inside of me. This is a great way to start my racing career with BAR and now I can't wait for the start of the next season. I'd like to thank everyone from the team and Honda for making my return to racing so successful."
| Formula One World Championship
Round 16: Japan Prix
Jenson Button &
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