The Honda Racing F1 Team enjoyed a positive first qualifying session of the year at Albert Park. Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button both set times less than 0.2s shy of the top ten and they will start tomorrow's 58-lap race from 11th and 13th positions respectively.
Both drivers completed two runs each during Q1 and improved their cars in between. Rubens achieved a pleasing seventh place, with a time of 1:26.369s, while Jenson ended the session 12th with a lap of 1:26.712s.
Q2 was disrupted by a red flag which forced both Honda Racing F1 Team drivers to abandon their first qualifying runs of that session. When the action resumed five minutes later, the drivers immediately headed onto the track. Jenson's first run was a 1:26.259s and Rubens was just 0.1s behind. Jenson ended the session in 13th place, while Rubens improved his time by 0.2s and will start tomorrow's race from 11th position.
Saturday Practice: P16 1:27.333
Qualifying 1: P7 1:26.369
Qualifying 2: P11 1:26.173
Qualifying 3: -
Q. How do you feel about your qualifying performance and resulting position?
A. "I am really pleased with our qualifying position today. Everybody back at the factory and here at the track has done a great job. It's very tight in the midfield, but if you look back to just over a month ago at our position in testing and compare that with where we are today, you can see the step forward that has been made after a lot of hard work. The car performed well and it's satisfying to know that we have made real progress over the last few weeks."
Q. What are your expectations for tomorrow's race?
A. "Well obviously I'm disappointed to just miss out on the top ten but on the other hand from 11th we can choose our own strategy and take into account the weather, so it works out quite well. Today has been a good start to the season for us and now we have to focus on turning this into a good race performance tomorrow."
Saturday Practice: P7 1:26.502
Qualifying 1: P12 1:26.712
Qualifying 2: P13 1:26.259
Qualifying 3: -
Q.Were you able to maximise the RA108 in qualifying today?
A. "The car certainly performed well but unfortunately I lost two-tenths at both turn 9 and the last corner with understeer at the apex which caused me to run wide. It's very frustrating as I was pushing too hard, however the fact that both Rubens and I just missed out on the top ten is certainly encouraging and I'm looking forward to seeing how our performance translates to the race tomorrow."
Q. How were the track conditions for today's qualifying session?
A. "The temperatures are a good few degrees cooler than the intense heat of yesterday and the wind has dropped, which means we can pick up more grip. The track conditions remained pretty much constant today with the grip levels increasing through qualifying as more rubber went down over the course of the sessions."
STEVE CLARK, Head of Race & Test Engineering
Q.What have been the main technical challenges of today's qualifying session?
A. "The first session went well and without incident, seeing both cars through. In Q2 the red flag caused by Webber compromised both our drivers on their first planned run. There was just enough time to run again as per plan and the team coped very well under the fairly pressured conditions. Technically we experienced no issues today."
Q. What is the outlook for tomorrow's race in terms of car performance and climatic conditions?
A. "The weather predictions for tomorrow are very warm again, as yesterday. We have considered this in our preparation today so giving up a little performance in qualifying. The hot conditions will be a challenge for all competitors, both for reliability and looking after the tyres with race fuel. With this in mind there may well be opportunities for us to progress closer to the points. Our thanks to everyone at our operational bases in Japan and the UK and here at the track. All the hard work of the past few months is clearly starting to pay dividends."