European GP: Practice notes - Honda


Valencia's Juan Carlos I Marina reverberated to the sound of Formula One cars for the first time today and after three hours of practice on the new 5.440km (3.380-mile) street track, the Honda Racing F1 Team drivers gave it a resounding thumbs up.

Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button spent the opening 15 minutes of the first session acclimatising to the circuit before getting down to the serious business of honing their RA108s to this demanding 25-corner racetrack. As expected, grip levels at Valencia improved as more rubber was laid down on the new asphalt. They completed a total of 56 laps with Rubens and Jenson ending the first session in 11th and 17th positions.

Track and ambient temperatures topped 46 and 31 degrees respectively in the afternoon, but still lap times came down as the track rubbered in. Both Honda drivers completed their usual tyre comparison work and long runs, and Jenson in particular made big strides with the set-up of his car.

The Briton completed a total of 35 laps in session two and set the third fastest time of the day, a 1:39.546s, on Bridgestone's super-soft rubber. His time was just 0.069s slower than Kimi Raikkonen's best at the top of the time sheets and marks his best start to a Grand Prix weekend this year. Rubens, meanwhile, struggled with braking problems on his car and ended the day in 20th place.

What are your thoughts on the opening day of running at the new Valencia street circuit?
Jenson Button: "It was good to finally get out on the new Valencia street circuit today after previously experiencing the lap on the simulator and having a closer look during our track walk yesterday. We were struggling with very low grip this morning and I'm sure that was the same for everyone out there. The track is very dusty and if you go offline, your tyres are quickly covered in dirt, which makes it difficult to be consistent. We made a lot of changes to the car this afternoon which have proved positive and provided a great deal of useful information to study this evening. It was nice to do a quick lap at the end on the option tyre. Hopefully we can further improve the car overnight and be reasonably competitive for qualifying tomorrow."

How did it feel to finally get to grips with the new Valencia circuit today?
Rubens Barrichello: "The new circuit here in Valencia is impressive and the grip levels have been improving throughout the day, so the lap times are becoming more representative. We had a good morning session and I felt the car was quite well-balanced but this afternoon it was almost like I had a completely different car. We changed some parts for the session and unfortunately they had a real impact on the car's performance, which along with some braking concerns, meant that we were unable to progress. I'm confident that we can resolve these concerns overnight and get back on the pace for qualifying tomorrow."

What were the main challenges in setting the car up for a new circuit today?
Steve Clark, Head of Race & Test Engineering: "The track is very dirty as it is so new and it's very easy to lose a bit of direction as the track improves, the car balance changes and the tyres behave differently. There are also some unknowns like the optimum downforce level and the drivers finding the racing line. In addition there is the additional challenge of getting the brakes to work correctly. There is quite a lot to get to grips with and we have to do so as quickly as possible. Fortunately we have two very experienced drivers which makes the process a lot easier.

Are you pleased with your performance here so far?
SC: "Jenson has obviously done a good job today and is looking extremely competitive. Rubens has some braking problems that we have had to live with during the session because there wasn't sufficient time to fix them. If we can resolve this issue then there is no reason to think that both cars can't be quite closely matched during the rest of the weekend. I think we have done a good job here in Valencia so far but credit should also go to the rest of the team for all the hard work that was achieved off-track during the three-week break. The progress we have made with honing our recent developments appears to be paying dividends."

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    Published: 22/08/2008
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