Lucky Strike BAR Honda is looking forward to the first of the European races in Imola where their 2005 season really gets underway. Having completed almost 6000kms in 5 days of testing at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, the team is confident that it has met its development objectives with the introduction of new aerodynamic upgrades and that previous reliability issues have been addressed.
In the course of the two tests, Jenson Button broke the unofficial lap record in Barcelona, previously held by Takuma Sato and set over a year ago under the prior technical regulations. Takuma also broke the unofficial lap record in Paul Ricard this week to confirm that developments introduced since Bahrain have been positive.
Joining BAR Honda for their first Grand Prix with the team are Yasuhiro Wada, the new President of Honda Racing Development Ltd. who is taking over from Shoichi Tanaka and Gil de Ferran, winner of the 2003 Indy 500 and twice winner of the North American CART Championship, who brings over 20 years of racing experience to the newly created role of Sporting Director, responsible for the BAR Honda team on-event.
Located 20 miles south-east of Bologna, the circuit at Imola was first used in 1952, and through the years, as a venue for both the San Marino and Italian Grands Prix, it has gained a reputation as a fast, narrow circuit with some truly daunting corners. Despite track modifications made to improve safety in 1994, the circuit remains a favourite amongst drivers and the presence of the legendary 'Tifosi' stimulates a typically electric atmosphere. Along with Interlagos and the new Turkish circuit in Instanbul, Imola also holds the distinction of being one of only three anti-clockwise circuits on the F1 calendar.
Jenson Button: "I am looking forward to Imola. Obviously I have great memories of last year's race weekend as I qualified on pole and finished in second place. It's a good technical track, although a bit strange as we use the kerbs a lot, but it is a great driver's circuit and I always enjoy racing there. There's also a good atmosphere, being Ferrari's home circuit in Italy, and the Tifosi are out in force, so it's always a lot of fun."
Takuma Sato: "I am excited to be returning to the European races after we had good performance in Bahrain and at our recent tests. Imola is a historic and challenging circuit with a narrow, bumpy track and high speeds. We hope that the team's hard work carried out during the recent tests pays off for us in Imola, where we will have a new aero upgrade and engine. Racing in Imola will be very different from the first three races where we had very hot temperatures and different track characteristics, so I am really looking forward to it."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "After very successful tests of our new aerodynamic package at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, we are looking forward to the first round of the European season at Imola. We had a very good race weekend here in 2004 and we expect the car to perform well again over the kerbs, which is important at this circuit. With track and air temperatures much lower than we experienced at the first three races, getting good tyre warm-up will be important, particularly in first qualifying, to help get a good aggregate qualifying position for this race where it is very hard to overtake. Imola is also a circuit which is hard on brakes, but despite the retirement at Bahrain we are confident that we will not encounter any wear problems."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development: "We have had two productive tests since the Bahrain race, and will be aiming with confidence for a much better result in Imola."