With the much anticipated launch of the Honda RA108, their 2008 car, this morning, the drivers and team managers have been speaking to the media about what this season will hopefully bring to the Brackley-based squad and how they can turn around their fortunes following the six-point haul of 2007. Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are excited about the new car, although it is hard to see how the team could get much worse.
2007 as everybody knows was a very tough year for us. But in a way I think it was a good year, because it made us realise that a few things needed to change and that we were going in the wrong direction. And we have had the chance to put them right. I am looking forward to 2008 – and not just 2008 but the future with Honda.
For me the important thing is the improvement throughout the season. It’s all well starting with a reasonably competitive car, but it’s improving that’s the key I feel – and for us to improve race-by-race compared to our competitors is what we need to do. And that’s what we are aiming for. Jenson Button.
Barrichello meanwhile was quick to tell people that although his contract with Honda is up at the end of 2008, this year will not be his last in Formula One. The Brazilian is about to enter his sixteenth season in the sport and will surpass Riccardo Patrese’s record of 256 starts in Turkey.
I am grateful of everything I have had, but I don’t think this is my last year. From deep inside I don’t pretend to stop. I don’t have any contract signed yet and so on, but I feel good. But I feel I am going to stop before someone tells me to.
Honestly, from deep inside, if it wasn’t for how much I loved the driving, I love my kids and family and I would just stay at home to not be in this cold English weather.
So I do love so much the driving. For me it is a new start. I did have problems in my career and maybe I have mentioned that already – after three or four years of driving I thought, ‘wow, how long am I going to stay in this?’ Because I was fed up. But right now I think I understand how to get the good energy where you need it, and the bad energy you can just put it away. Rubens Barrichello.
Jenson then spoke of his future in Formula One and his desire to remain with Honda. Considering the Briton tried to leave at the end of 2004 his U-turn in attitude towards the squad is credit to the hiring and influence of key personnel, notably the recent addition of Ross Brawn to the squad.
I think that Honda has to be the team to be with in the future, it has everything now. It is the first time that I can truly say that in every area we are strong and we know which direction we are going. We have great technical direction with Ross and that is going to make a big difference to this team. I am very happy where I am.
Personally I am very motivated. I wouldn’t have spent my whole winter training my arse off in Lanzarote where it wasn’t necessary, maybe. I feel I am the fittest driver on the grid and I am as focussed as any other out there. Jenson Button.
Alex Wurz was also present at the launch, his first with Honda having been signed as their test driver following his retirement last year from competitive driving. Wurz has been praised in all quarters for his skill at developing a car and should be a great asset for Honda.
So far I have only driven the RA108 for a few short metres at the launch event today so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to try out the new car later this week in Barcelona, when I will really be able to start contributing to the development programme. All three of my previous teams have been world championship winners and I am very proud that I have the opportunity to play a role in the pursuit of Honda’s ambitions. Alex Wurz.
Following the car’s first run at Valencia last week, the initial signs were one of doubt with Barrichello and Button propping up the timing sheets. However, Brawn was insistent that the first test is not indicative of the RA108’s pace and said that improvements made to the team would be done step-by-step.
From my discussions they want to see step-by-step progress and the team going in the right direction. There’s no deadline. We’ll change things and if they see progress over the next few years they’ll be happy.
What was encouraging [from the test] was the car looked far more stable than the old car, I went out to have a look on the circuit. And while the old car had quite a reasonable level of downforce, it was very pitch sensitive and difficult to drive. This car looked nice and stable – the early signs are encouraging but we’ve still got to introduce the downforce and aero performance and start to see what the laptimes are like. Ross Brawn.