The Honda Racing F1 Team enjoyed a solid qualifying session in Malaysia today, once again coming close to achieving a position in the top 10. Jenson Button will start tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix from 11th place and Rubens Barrichello from 14th.
With the mid-field so close this season, it was a very intense qualifying session from start-to-finish. Every tenth of a second counted as the drivers progressed from Q1 to Q2, and Jenson only just missed out on a Q3 position.
Both drivers completed three runs in Q1 and they managed to improve their lap times on each occasion. They ended Q1 in 10th and 16th positions respectively. In Q2 the drivers completed two runs each and again improved from lap-to-lap. Jenson’s fastest lap of 1:35.208s was just 0.068s shy of Fernando Alonso in 10th, while Rubens ended the day in 14th position.
Saturday Practice: P8 1:35.781
Qualifying 1: P10 1:35.847
Qualifying 2: P11 1:35.208
Qualifying 3: -
Q. Are you pleased with your qualifying performance today?
A. "I'm happy with P11 and to be starting on the right side of the grid for the race. The weather was looking changeable with the risk of rain, so we ran early in both sessions to get a banker time in. My final run in the second session was on the option tyres and I'm really happy with the lap as we just missed out on going through by less than 0.1sec."
Q. What were the main challenges today?
A. "The main challenge was choosing between the prime and the option tyre. I was struggling to get the options to work so I was running on the primes for most of the session but pretty much everyone else was on the option tyre. So with that much option rubber going down on the track, we had to give it a go for my last run in Q2, and we were 0.25s quicker. That was as quick as the car is today and I put in a good lap, so I’m pleased with our position."
Saturday Practice: P22 1:37.703
Qualifying 1: P16 1:36.198
Qualifying 2: P14 1:35.622
Qualifying 3: -
Q. How do you feel about your performance and resulting position today?
A. "It was unfortunate that we had a problem this morning with the gear selection which limited my running and therefore when you go into qualifying, you are playing catch-up all the time. However it was a good effort this afternoon and I'm happy with how our session developed to eventually finish in 14th position. It would have been nice to have more time this morning to set the car up a little better but we made the best of a difficult situation."
Q. With today’s changeable conditions also predicted for the race, how do you think you will fare?
A. "If the changeable weather continues into tomorrow, then being outside of the top ten provides more of an option to fine tune the strategy. Considering my lack of practice this morning, I'm pleased with my qualifying and 14th is a good position from which to attack the points tomorrow."
STEVE CLARK, Head of Race & Test Engineering
Q. What were the engineering challenges today?
A. "Rubens had a damaged sixth gear at the start of free practice which we were able to repair under FIA regulations without penalty. We stopped running to avoid further damage which might have resulted in a gearbox change and resulting five place penalty. Rubens was forced to rely on Jenson’s running and set-up changes, which obviously made qualifying difficult for him. Under the circumstances Rubens did a very good job even getting to Q2 given that the midfield was so close. Jenson didn’t have as good a balance with today’s track conditions and our car seems more suited to the prime tyre than the option. In qualifying the option tyre was the faster of the two but we were unable to get the most from it."
Q. What kind of race do you think we will see at Sepang tomorrow?
A. "The forecast is for the possibility of rain and for us a wet race would certainly suit our starting grid slots of P11 and P14. It is also our best chance of scoring points. If the conditions remain dry it will probably be a very tight race in the midfield and we would expect most people to two stop and probably at the same point in the race."