Qualifying at the Fuji Speedway ended in disappointment for the Honda Racing F1 Team today and Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button will now share the ninth row of the grid for the start of tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix.
The team's preparations for the session were affected by a wet track during this morning's final practice session. Jenson suffered in particular because he made significant alterations to the dry set-up of his RA108 overnight and he was unable to verify the changes ahead of this afternoon's dry qualifying session.
Both drivers completed a flying lap right at the start of Q1, Rubens posting a time of 1:19.796s and Jenson 1:20.293s. They remained on-track for a couple of extra laps to evaluate the handling of their cars, prior to returning to the pits to make further set-up changes.
With nine minutes of Q1 remaining they took to the track for a second time and both drivers improved their lap times significantly. Rubens' time was a 1:18.882s and Jenson's a 1:19.100s. At this point in the session they were both comfortably clear of the knockout zone for Q2.
In the dying moments of Q1 both drivers put on new option tyres and took to the racetrack for one final run. Their times were solid in sectors one and two, but suffered from tyre graining through the twists of sector three. Rubens aborted his lap as a result, while Jenson crossed the finish line but didn't improve on his fastest lap.
A very close but ultimately disappointing qualifying session today?
Rubens Barrichello: "Although my second run today was actually a good qualifying lap, unfortunately we are at the back of the midfield group where just another three-tenths would have been enough to put me in P10. I was already right on the limit with my second run so we had to take a bit of a gamble with the final run and add a little more front wing. Unfortunately this led to the tyres graining by the second sector and I was not able to improve. It's a shame that we were unable to qualify better than this at our home race but we will do our best to make the most of any opportunities in the race tomorrow."
It is proving to be a difficult weekend at your home race. What issues have you faced?
Jenson Button: "It has not been the best of days for us today but hopefully the race tomorrow will be better. I have been struggling with the car for the whole weekend and have found it difficult to achieve a good balance. The car was better in the wet this morning, however the bumps and corner apexes are unsettling the car in the dry and we have not been able to resolve this. I had too much understeer on my final run in qualifying today which made the car very twitchy and difficult to get round the corners and I was unable to improve my lap time. It's disappointing but we just have to do our best with the package that we have."
Summarise a difficult qualifying session for the team today? To check out our Fuji Saturday gallery, click here
Steve Clark, Head of Race & Test Engineering: "Unfortunately we were well aware in advance of this weekend that Fuji was going to be a difficult track for us given our current package. That fact does not make today's result any less disappointing however. Obviously going into a dry qualifying after a wet morning was a little like venturing into the unknown as we were reliant upon the settings we made to the cars overnight. In actual fact, early in the qualifying session, the cars were working quite well, certainly for Rubens. At the end of our first set of option tyres, both cars were comfortably in a position to progress to Q2. We then switched to the second set of options and that's where it all went wrong for both drivers. The option tyres have more grip but are also more delicate and they grained on both cars."