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GP Week : Issue 16
Honda, its drivers, and engineers took part in what they described as an “extensive” testing programme on Friday. The duo were fairly closely matched, with Barrichello in the ascendency in the morning and Button taking Honda honours in the afternoon. The fact that the best they’d mustered all day was 15th however sent alarm bells ringing. And with good reason. Come qualifying, Honda endured a proper nightmare, taking 17th and 18th places ahead of only the Force Indias. Both drivers bemoaned a simple lack of performance from the RA108 and Barrichello’s gearbox change left him plum last. The Brazilian put in a sterling performance to finish 14th, which was little reward. He described the race as “great, just with a difficult car,” which sort of sums up Honda’s problems. Button went out early after hitting Bourdais and damaging the front of his car. He changes his wing after it was ripped off on the final chicane, but the damage which had been done to the car was enough to see the Briton park it and go for a shower. With a 10-place grid penalty in his pocket, Lewis Hamilton always knew France would be an uphill fight, but he started off promisingly with the second best time of the morning and the third best time of the afternoon. Heikki Kovalainen was fourth and seventh and said he had no complaints on a circuit he has always enjoyed. Come qualifying, Hamilton admitted to making mistakes on his way to third while Kovalainen took sixth for an uninspiring result. When the stewards deemed Kovalainen had impeded Mark Webber, however, he was sent back five places leaving Hamilton 13th and Kovalainen 10th. Hamilton picked up a penalty for cutting the chicane on the first lap, and thereafter had no real chance of points. Still, he raced aggressively to inspire thoughts of what might have been with a run to 10th. Kovalainen on the other hand used an aggressive strategy to take fourth, and almost a podium for third but for Trulli’s staunch defence, giving some relief to the team after a tough weekend of penalties. The day started off with brake issues for Adrian Sutil. Rather than risk further damage, the team cut short his morning running to change the callipers. With a lack of grip in the afternoon he wound up bottom of the pile for both sessions. Giancarlo Fisichella, meanwhile, was far happier, setting the 19th best lap in the morning and the 18th in the afternoon. While the position was not overly impressive, the fact Fisi’s time was only 1.5s off Alonso’s top time, was. In one of the tightest qualifying sessions of the year, Force India were always going to struggle and wound up an unsurprising 19th and 20th, although they would both be promoted a place by Rosberg’s penalty. The duo finished the race at the back but was happy to have a double finish. An aggressive strategy should have moved them up the order, but with good reliability from their competitors the chance to make up places was never presented to them. New parts at the Silverstone test next week should help the team move forward. HONDA RACING F1 TEAM 16 17 FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM 20 21 VODAFONE McLAREN MERCEDES 22 23 F1 france >> 33