The immortal optimists Honda will be hoping for some reverse psychological goodness this season, as for the first time since the team’s inception as BAR back in 1999, they have leaned on the conservative side of the fence and not hyped their own chances of success. Perhaps a realisation of their previous errors, or perhaps a wake up call from a wise person in marketing – who knows – but this year the only thing that got hyped was the paint job.
Yes, the ‘save-the-world-by painting-a-globe-on-the-car’ technique. The launch of the livery sparked widespread condemnation from environmental groups, and caused much humour among the paddock as Honda chose to unveil it all at London’s Natural History Museum. But regardless of whether you think it good, bad, right or wrong, the fact remains that Honda are trying something different, and while it won’t make a jot of difference to the pace of the car, it will make it easier to spot them in the field.
And what about the pace? Well, testing has been a bit of a hit-and-miss affair this winter, which saw Jenson Button rise as far as third on some days, but fall down towards the bottom on others. An injury sustained while karting before Christmas didn’t help the Briton’s efforts, and although fully healed, I’m suspecting Jenson is starting to wish he was driving for a different team. Only yesterday did 1996 World Champion Damon Hill advise Button to leave the team, but despite all the worries regarding the new RA107, I think Button will still do well to stay.
Honda will suffer performance gains and losses, just like any other team – just look at Williams right now – and while it is painful to be in a slump, the technical knowledge and resources at Honda will see them through. We shouldn’t forget that Jenson won his maiden Grand Prix last year at the Hungaroring, and Rubens shouldn’t suffer the same ‘settling-in’ issues that he appeared to last year.
Rubens has to get his points in thick and fast if he is retain his seat in the future. His 2006 campaign got off to a very slow start, and the Brazilian will need to stamp his authority on Button from the word go. Rubens is approaching 35 and is a bout to embark on his fifteenth season in Formula One – he is by some margin the most experienced driver in F1 at the moment. All the years at Ferrari did Rubens good and bad, and although he can be forgiven for his first season away from the comfort of the Scuderia, if he wants to remain in motorsport’s elite series, he needs to knuckle down and get the point in quick.
The car hasn’t looked fast all winter, but the team have the capacity to turn that around. They didn’t look too special last year either, but Jenson managed to claim that victory in Hungary, and also put in some other inspiring performances. The team can do it, but they need to be sharp as BMW are approaching fast.
2007 Constructors Prediction: 5th