|In the season-closing Chinese Grand Prix, Jenson Button came home in eighth place and his team-mate, Takuma Sato, retired with gearbox problems.
As with last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, where Jenson started second on the grid, the Chinese Grand Prix promised much before the off. Jenson qualified fourth at the Shanghai International Circuit and believed that he had a more competitive car under him for today’s 53-lap race than was the case at Suzuka.
At the start, Jenson – on the dirty side of the grid – was beaten away by Juan Pablo Montoya and he finished the opening lap in fifth place. Takuma, on the other hand, jumped from 17th to 12th at the start, but the stewards soon informed the B·A·R Honda pitwall that he had jumped the start and he was given a drive-through penalty on lap four, which dropped him to the back of the field.
During this first stint of the race Jenson ran at the same pace as the McLarens ahead of him, but his chances of a top finish were ruined by the first appearance of the Safety Car on lap 18. He had completed his first pitstop only a lap earlier, which allowed his immediate rivals to pit under yellow flag – no overtaking – conditions and get ahead. By the time the race re-started six laps later, Jenson was down in seventh place.
The Safety Car then appeared for the second time just five laps later when Narain Karthikeyan crashed at Turn 13, putting debris across the track. This time Jenson took advantage of the full-course yellow to pit for fuel, but when three cars ahead of him elected not to stop, he slipped down the order to 10th place.
Takuma didn’t pit during the second Safety Car period, which resulted in him climbing to eighth place. However, his progress was halted just one lap later when he retired from the race with gearbox trouble.
In the latter stages of the race, Jenson was in ninth place and fought an exciting battle for seventh place with Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello. When Barrichello ran wide at the end of the main straight on lap 45, Jenson overtook him to be eighth, which is where he stayed until the finish.
B·A·R Honda now returns to Europe for a winter of intensive testing and preparation ahead of the 2006 World Championship, which begins in Bahrain on 12 March.
End of Season Message From Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer
Jenson Button : 8th (Best Lap Time: 1:34.766)
"Today’s result was obviously a disappointing way to end the season. We lost out under the first safety car when we pitted and the safety car was in front of us. The safety car should have waved us past, but as it didn’t, Montoya sat behind it and that was it then, I lost about three places. In the first stint the car was good but towards the end it wasn’t that much better than in Japan. We just didn’t make the final step up that we’d hoped for here. It’s been a long, hard season for all of us but we are all much stronger and more determined. My thoughts are already turning to 2006 and I know we have a lot to look forward to next year. For now I just want to thank everyone in this team, at Honda, at Michelin and all our partners for their incredible support this year during some very difficult times. We have a lot to look forward to together next season."
Takuma Sato : DNF (34 laps) (Best Lap Time: 1:35.587)
"Today’s race was a difficult one and the end result was disappointing because I was making good progress and a points finish looked possible. The gearbox problems I had been experiencing earlier in the race eventually forced me to retire which is a frustrating way to end the season and my time with B·A·R Honda. It’s been a tough year but it has been great to be a part of this team. We have had some fantastic times together and I have a lot of good memories. I would like to thank everybody in the team and all our partners. I wish them all the very best of luck for the future."
Gil De Ferran, Sporting Director
"We are really disappointed with today’s result. This is always the case with any mechanical failure, but even more so for Taku as this was his last race with B·A·R Honda and it would have been nice for him to at least take the chequered flag one last time whilst driving one of our cars.
Perhaps frustrated is the best way to describe how we feel about what happened to Jenson today. Things were going very well until we exited the pits after our first stop. When the Safety Car picked up Montoya and Jenson on their way out of the pits then kept them behind for a few corners, we lost a lot of time. By the time he finally followed Montoya past the safety car, the damage was done and that one incident sealed the fate of our race, not to mention other competitors. Furthermore he was delayed by Webber coming into the pits for our second stop, which denied us the opportunity to improve our position at that time. The frustrating thing is that, although we didn’t have the fastest car, our speed and strategy should have allowed us to finish much higher up and for reasons beyond our control we ended up where we did.
In closing I would like to thank our partners and all of our team members for the tremendous effort they put into this season. Although ultimately we did not win a race, it certainly wasn’t due to lack dedication from all the great people at B·A·R Honda. We now shift our focus to 2006 which I am sure will bring greater rewards. Finally, our congratulations to Renault and Fernando Alonso on a great season."
Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
"A disappointing day to end a disappointing season. Formula One is undoubtedly the pinnacle of four-wheeled motorsport and is a great challenge, but it is not enough for us just to be here. We, as Honda, have to work harder, be smarter and above all else refocus all our efforts during the winter on our goal of winning."
"The 2005 season has been a challenging one for B·A·R Honda, but we have pulled together throughout to resolve our issues and to continue to develop the car. The experience gained this year has made our team much stronger for 2006 and beyond. Problems which confronted us in the first half of the season were quickly put aside and the team recorded good grid positions and championship points consistently through the second half of the year. The introduction of developments on the engine and chassis has been relentless right through to the final race and the time, effort and enthusiasm demonstrated by everyone at our bases in England and in Japan, in testing and at the race circuits, has been remarkable. They are all to be congratulated. Finally, the support we have received from Michelin and all our partners has been unfailing - they are all true members of our team and we are proud to work with them. Takuma raced in his final Grand Prix for B·A·R Honda today but we hope to see him back in a Formula One car very soon. Although we clearly didn’t achieve the results we wished for in 2005, the team is stronger and more motivated than ever before. Honda’s acquisition of the team presents a new and exciting challenge for the future and next year we intend to be challenging for race wins with Jenson and Rubens as team-mates."