The Honda Racing F1 Team will start tomorrow’s 66-lap Spanish Grand Prix from just outside the top 10 after Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button qualified in 11th and 13th positions respectively.
The drivers each completed two runs in both sessions. During Q1 Jenson set the faster time of the two drivers on the first run, but he struggled with the balance of his RA108 on his second lap and had to settle for a time of 1:21.757s, which placed him 16th. Rubens tweaked the set-up of his car between his two runs in Q1 and he improved to a 1:21.548s, which placed him 14th. Rubens’ time was within 0.2s of the car in third place.
For Q2 the drivers made further changes to their cars and with track conditions improving by the minute they both improved their lap times. Rubens’ first lap was a 1:21.197s and he took to the track again in the dying moments of the session to improve to a 1:21.049s, which placed him 11th and just 0.065s shy of a place in Q3. Despite improving by 0.3s during the course of Q2, Jenson’s final lap of 1:21.211s placed him in 13th position.
Saturday Practice: P17 1:22.350
Qualifying 1: P14 1:21.548
Qualifying 2: P11 1:21.049
Qualifying 3: -
Q. You were targeting a top 10 qualifying position today. How do you feel about just missing out by the smallest of margins?
A. "My final Q2 lap felt perfect and I'm pleased for myself and the team that we could put in a good time. Unfortunately we were just not quick enough to be in the top ten, but we are knocking on the door. I'm very pleased with my lap, and whilst it is frustrating to be so close, I am happy with our performance today and we are looking good for tomorrow."
Q. How do you feel about the developments the team has introduced for this race?
A. "The new aero package is certainly an improvement, that was evident from the test last week and from the feel of the car this weekend. We are still making tweaks to find the optimum performance but we achieved a good set-up for qualifying today and I'm confident that the same will be true for the race tomorrow. We are not quite in the position to be in the top ten and scoring points yet, so we need to take advantage of every opportunity that arises in the midfield pack during the race to achieve a point finish. This gives us plenty to aim for tomorrow though."
Saturday Practice: P8 1:22.060
Qualifying 1: P16 1:21.757
Qualifying 2: P13 1:21.211
Qualifying 3: -
Q. Tell us about your qualifying performance today?
A. "Qualifying was just so close today and it was a tough session for us. A lot of our work this weekend has been trying to understand the aero on the car as I missed out on testing last week. On my last run, I took some front wing off as the rear end was twitchy and I had too much understeer. This was really useful as we found it made the rear end more stable and didn't give me any more understeer, so it's a question of trying to understand the car and catching up on the time that I missed last week."
Q. What are your expectations for the race tomorrow?
A. "In the circumstances, I'm pleased with our position today. I felt a lot more comfortable with the balance of the car on my final run and we are certainly making progress. I need a bit more time with the car to understand the new aero properly and find out how to get the most out of it, but I'm happy with our position going into the race and we'll see what happens and what we can take advantage of."
STEVE CLARK, Head of Race & Test Engineering
Q. Was a place in the top ten possible today?
A. "The top 10 times were all very close and Rubens was just 0.065s away from making it into Q3, so a top 10 place was certainly within our grasp."
Q. Do you now have a good understanding of the team’s position relative to your competitors?
A. "We have certainly improved the car with our latest developments, however the same is true of our near competitors and the goalposts are moving all the time. We know Barcelona very well as the teams test here all the time. The field is very tight and with it being so close we are probably seeing the absolute pace for the first time this season."