The Honda Racing F1 Team began the on-track preparations for its home GrandPrix at the Fuji Speedway in Japan today with race drivers RubensBarrichello and Jenson Button completing 143 laps of the 4.563km(2.835-mile) circuit.
After the persistent rain of last year's Japanese Grand Prix, the team waspleased to achieve some valuable dry running under sunny skies. Theconditions gave the Honda drivers the opportunity to complete an extensivetest programme and find the right aerodynamic balance between straightlinespeed and slow-speed grip required at this technically demanding racetrack.
Their best laps were separated by just 0.016s during the opening 1.5-hoursession and placed them in 16th and 17th positions. Rubens was the faster ofthe two, completing five more laps than Jenson.
Lap times fell quickly in the afternoon as the grip levels increased. Bothdrivers improved their lap times significantly, with Rubens setting a besttime of 1:19.258s which placed him 15th overall. Jenson was not able toachieve such a good balance on new tyres and finished the session 0.7sslower than his team-mate.
Drivers Car No. Chassis No. Free Practice 1Free Practice 2 Rubens Barrichello 17 RA108-03 32 laps01:20.753 P16 42 laps 01:19.258 P15 Jenson Button 16 RA108-05 27 laps01:20.769 P17 42 laps 01:19.999 P20
Weather Warm and sunny Temperatures Air: 22-22°C Track: 28-36°C
Q. What were you able to achieve on the first day of running at Fuji? A. "Just like last year, we have had a dry first day of practice and by theend of the afternoon we were able to achieve a reasonable balance with thecar on new tyres. The weather forecast for the weekend looks interesting sowe need to take a close look at that. However if it stays dry, then Ibelieve we have a chance to progress to the second qualifying session."
Q. What issues did you face in practice today? A. "We were able to make progress on the balance of the car on older tyresby the end of the afternoon session, however achieving a good balance wasour main problem throughout the day. On new tyres at the end of the secondsession, I just had very little grip and it felt like the tyres weregraining immediately. We will have to look at the reasons for this ahead ofqualifying tomorrow."
STEVE CLARKHead of Race & Test Engineering
Q. Sum up the first free practice sessions at the Fuji Speedway today?
A. "Our focus for today was an evaluation of downforce levels and set-upwith the RA108 in addition to gathering information on the tyres. We havehad two productive sessions to prepare for the race, although our positionon the timesheets does not necessarily reflect the level of good work thatwe have achieved." Q. What does the rest of the weekend hold? A. "The weather forecast is for rain overnight so we expect to tomorrowmorning's final practice session will take place on a damp or wet track. Itshould then remain dry for the rest of the weekend. Whilst tomorrow willprovide a clearer indication of our performance level, we are fully awarethat our car is not well suited to this circuit and our focus will be onachieving the maximum from the package that we have."