The Honda Racing F1 Team began its on-track preparations for the Monaco Grand Prix today as the Principality basked in perfect sunny conditions throughout the two free practice sessions.
As is usually the case on the opening day at Monaco, the track only became representative during the afternoon session, once some rubber had been laid on the racing line. As a result, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello completed a modest 26 laps each during the morning session, at the end of which Rubens was eighth fastest and Jenson 12th.
This afternoon, Jenson completed 45 laps during the second session, with a best time of 1:16.351s, which placed him eighth overall. Rubens completed 32 laps to end the day within 0.1s of his team-mate, placing him 10th.
How does it feel to be back racing in Monaco?
Jenson Button: "It's always very exciting to be back in Monaco and out on track for the first day of running. We had two good opening sessions and I had a reasonable balance right from the start, particularly on the harder tyre. This afternoon has really been about getting the long runs in, getting used to the balance and making some improvements."
What progress have you made in today's two sessions?
JB: "We have a lot of useful information from the two sessions today, however as always there is still work to do. We are not quite where we would like to be yet, and as qualifying does not take place until Saturday, I have plenty of time to work with the engineers. I'm confident that we will be in a good position for qualifying and also well prepared for any changes in the weather conditions."
What has been the focus of your programme today?
Rubens Barrichello: "Our programme today was focused on the set-up of the car as the track improves a great deal here over the sessions. We completed a good part of our work as the car feels competitive this afternoon, so I am happy with what we achieved. As always, we don't really know where we stand in terms of the competition yet as everyone will have been running different set-up and fuel programmes."
Based on today's performance, what are your expectations for the rest of the weekend?
RB: "Monaco is always a very open race where it is important to have a good qualifying session. Based on our work today, I believe we can have a good weekend; so let's hope that this is the case. The weather will no doubt play a part on Saturday and Sunday as it looks like we will have some rain."
Talk us through today's programme.
Steve Clark, Head of Race & Test Engineering: "This morning was spent conducting race preparation work, whilst the second session was dedicated to set-up work and evaluating the tyres for qualifying. Neither driver had a particularly good run on the option tyre, which is brand new for this race. This is not surprising for a Thursday here as the track grip will continue to improve considerably, so we still expect the option to be a good tyre for qualifying and the race."
The team appeared optimistic heading into this race. Are you confident of a good result?
SC: "We had a good test at Paul Ricard last week and it appears that our relative performance is back to where we were at Barcelona. It is never wise to be over confident at Monaco as there are so many variables affecting the race outcome. From a performance point of view we are hopeful of getting into the points on merit. There is a chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday which at this track amounts to a big roll of the dice. We will be looking to take advantage of any opportunity to move further up the field."