Once a developing force in Formula One, Honda have slipped ever further backwards in recent years, slowly encroaching on the back row of the grids and scoring less and less points. With a raft of changes made to the team this season, and with the pressure of Super Aguri relieved, one might have expected an upturn in performances and results. If anything though, things just went from bad to worse. Honda will want to forget about 2008, but not until we’ve had a look at their dismal year of fighting just to keep ahead of Force India.
The season started off poorly with a disqualification in the first round for Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver on the grid falling foul of the pitlane closure rule during safety car periods. Having completed the resulting stop-go penalty for this infringement, Barrichello then ran a red light at the end of the pitlane, the Brazilian claiming he simply didn’t see the light.
Despite this though, the Hondas qualified well in Australia, certainly better than their testing pace indicated. Unfortunately though, the pace would gradually decline as the year progressed and what started out as a ~12th place grid slot regularity, it soon became ~16th by the season close. And the race pace didn’t get much better either.
The Spanish Grand Prix saw the team score their first points of the year with Jenson Button claiming sixth place for the squad. Unfortunately, Rubens Barrichello collided with Giancarlo Fisichella during the race and was forced to retire with a damaged car. However, the Brazilian would also score points not to long after Button, Monaco and Canada proving good races for the the former race winner.
Tricky conditions at Monaco allowed Barrichello to calmly drive his Honda into sixth place from fifteenth on the grid, and the Canadian Grand Prix showed the world that if it all came together, the car was capable of getting into the third phase of qualifying, Barrichello doing just that and starting the race in ninth. Rubens would go on to improve his position and finish the race in seventh.
The team’s high point of the year would come in Britain with Barrichello scoring a well-deserved podium as other drivers around him were falling off the road in atrocious conditions. A good strategy from the team and a mature drive from Rubens resulted in third place, standing alongside Lewis Hamilton and Nick Heidfeld on the podium. Race winner Hamilton lapped everybody up to Barrichello and the pace-levelling rain allowed Rubens to show he hadn’t lost his competitive edge.
The latter half of the season saw any competitive advantage with the Honda get overtaken by just about everybody else. Jenson Button’s retirement rate improved, the Briton managing to finish all remaining nine races. However, Barrichello’s luck ran out and the Brazilian racked up a further three non-finishes; a collision with David Coulthard in Germany, a failed gearbox in Belgium and electrical problems halted his race in Singapore.
Jenson Button managed a ninth place in Singapore, and Barrichello claimed eleventh in China. But aside from these peaks, the second half of 2008 was full of gloom as the cars only managed to stay ahead of the Force Indias.
However, the team openly admitted that they were working very hard towards 2009 and when former-Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn was brought onboard as team principal in the ’07-’08 break, talk of using 2008 as a transition year was suggested. However, despite all this there appear to be very few definite good signs for the future, other than the team developing KERS from an early stage and focusing on the 2009 campaign before most others.
Ever since the stunning 2004 season when the squad were still racing under the BAR name, the performance of the team has declined. From second place in 2004, BAR/Honda slipped to 6th in 2005, improved to 4th in 2006, but then slipped again in 2007 to 8th (and scoring 80 points less than the year previous) before resting in 9th this year, although the team did score more than double the points they did in 2007, mostly thanks to Barrichello’s podium.
Jenson Button has re-signed to the team for 2009, although the jury is still out on Rubens Barrichello. The only real factor playing against the lead points scorer from this season is the man’s age – Barrichello celebrated his 36th birthday this year, although he managed to outscore his younger and still much-praised team mate 11 points to 3.
Honda will test and evaluate Bruno Senna later this month, the 2008 GP2 runner-up being the nephew of late Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna. The team also courted Fernando Alonso during the this year’s campaign, but it would seem the Spaniard is only really interested in Ferrari and his current home Renault.
| Rubens Barrichello
|Australian Grand Prix Albert Park||(13) RET||(11) DSQ|
|Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang||(11) 10||(14) 13|
|Bahrain Grand Prix Sakhir||(9) RET||(12) 11|
|Spanish Grand Prix Circuit de Catalunya||(13) 6||(11) RET|
|Turkish Grand Prix Istanbul Park||(13) 11||(12) 14|
|Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlo||(12) 11||(15) 6|
|Canadian Grand Prix Circuit Gilles Villeneuve||(18) 11||(9) 7|
|French Grand Prix Magny Cours||(16) RET||(17) 14|
|British Grand Prix Silverstone||(17) RET||(16) 3|
|German Grand Prix Hockenheim||(?) 17||(?) RET|
|Hungarian Grand Prix Hungaroring||(12) 12||(17) 16|
|European Grand Prix Valencia||(16) 13||(19) 16|
|Belgian Grand Prix Spa Francorchamps||(17) 15||(16) RET|
|Italian Grand Prix Monza||(19) 15||(16) 17|
|Singapore Grand Prix Singapore||(12) 9||(18) RET|
|Japanese Grand Prix Fuji Speedway||(18) 14||(17) 13|
|Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai||(18) 16||(13) 11|
|Brazilian Grand Prix Interlagos||(17) 13||(15) 15|
|Driver’s Championship Position||(3pts) 18th||(11pts) 14th|
|Constructor’s Championship Position||(14pts) 9th|
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