Lucky Strike BAR Honda's first taste of the new single session qualifying format was a frustrating one as Jenson Button and Takuma Sato placed themselves on the 7th and 8th rows of the grid for tomorrow's European Grand Prix. They were the first to leave the pitlane for this now crucial single-lap session and so bore the brunt of a particularly dusty track and gusty conditions, qualifying 13th and 16th respectively.
Both drivers enjoyed productive free practice sessions to fine-tune the cars to their race set-up. The balance felt good and at the end of the morning Takuma was running as high as 7th with Jenson in 9th. As they embarked on qualifying, the significant change in the track conditions became all too clear and the early timing of their runs left them fighting for grip and struggling with understeer. Nonetheless, both drivers are confident that they have a strong car with which to progress through the field in tomorrow's 60-lap race.
Jenson Button: "It's not very much fun being one of the first cars out for the session. There was very little grip and the balance was not what we expected at all. It's a shame because in free practice this morning the car felt pretty good. We have to look now at what we can do for tomorrow but I am confident that we can make up some ground and be strong in the race."
Takuma Sato: "The track conditions were totally different to how they were when we finished free practice, so it was a very difficult qualifying session. I was the first car out on track and it was quite windy with a lot of dust on the circuit, which made it very slippery. I had very low grip which caused me to slide and run wide before the back straight, which cost me a lot of time. Apart from that, the car is performing well and we hope that we have a good package for the race tomorrow, which I'm looking forward to as I think we can be strong."
Gil de Ferran: "We had good morning practice sessions, during which we were able to improve both cars from yesterday. Being first and second to qualify unfortunately hurt us more than we were predicting, with both cars suffering from excessive understeer due to the change in track conditions. Even though we are starting further back than we would have liked, we are still confident about our race pace and very much looking forward to tomorrow."
Shuhei Nakamoto: "Being first and second out makes it tough, but we were hoping for better starting positions. We expect to be stronger over the race distance."