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Menorca Test Runway

The F1 teams have now finished their test sessions, in preparation for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne in 2 weeks time.
But 2 teams have scheduled a final straight line test session at Menorca.
The BMW Sauber F1 Team is travelling to Menorca on Thursday 6 March, the McLaren Mercedes team will also conduct some final straight line aerodynamic work in Menorca.
Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Honda will also conduct one final shakedown before travelling to Australia
Luca Badoer will be on track at Fiorano on 6 March where he will shakedown the cars that will be used in the Australian Grand Prix.
Toro Rosso will work at the same track 3 days earlier for their shakedown.

Honda has scheduled a private three-day test session at the Circuit of Jerez from 4-6 March before travelling to Melbourne.

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 Jenson Button

 Q: What is the new car like to drive? 

The 30 laps that I drove at Valencia was all system checks and reliability checks. The basic car itself to me feels a lot more predictable which is the important thing. But it is still the basic car. The car in front of me here is actually more advanced than the car that I drove at the test by quite a bit. There are quite a lot of differences already for the Barcelona test so I think we will get a better read at Barcelona, but the good thing is that there is nothing that is wrong. It is not as quick as the Ferraris and McLarens or whoever but there is nothing wrong with the car. It’s predictable, you know what it is doing, we just need to improve it a lot. And that is exactly what we are doing.  

Q: How excited are you to work with Ross Brawn? 

It is great working with Ross, but it is not just Ross you know – we’ve always had a lot of good people here and they are still here because they are good. We’ve employed a lot of people, not just Ross, but aerodynamically we’ve got a lot of new people heading up that department. Also in engineering there is a lot of new people so there is a lot that has changed around here for the better. It’s a very positive place at the moment, as it should be.I’m really looking forward to working with Ross at the circuits; he has had a lot of good input.He can’t really have a lot of input on the way the car is at the moment – because the initial, basic car has already been designed – but for the future, for sure, he knows what to do to build on it along with the aerodynamics team that we have. And not just aerodynamics, but engineering, mechanical grip and so on. So I am happy with the way things are going, it’s the strongest this team has ever been and for me it’s the strongest team for the future.I think we have everything in place to be challenging for the world championship in the future and there is not one other team I would rather be in for the next few years. This year we are not going to challenge for the world championship – that will be McLaren and Ferrari I feel – but you have got to be looking for 2009. There is a lot changing in 2009, we have everything in place to be challenging then, but for now we need to work very hard on improving this car race-by-race to achieve our goals in the future. It’s not going to be easy; it’s actually getting more and more competitive and there are so many good teams out there now. But I think we can do it, we really can.My aim is to be stronger in the last race than any other race. The aim is to improve with the car every race, and I don’t just mean feeling the car improve; I mean compared to our competitors and moving up the grid in every race. 

Q: Ross says he needs to give you a better car; are you still motivated after a year like last year?

I don’t think any driver in Formula 1 would not be motivated with the team that we have. With the people that we have employed, the people that were here before and the way this team is going. I don’t think anybody wouldn’t be motivated. Personally I am very motivated. I wouldn’t have spent my whole winter training my arse off in Lanzerote where it wasn’t necessary, maybe. I feel I am the fittest driver on the grid and I am as focused as any other out there.I have been giving as much input over the winter, listening to what they have to say and also seeing how the car is growing. I am definitely hungry and I definitely want a competitive car. We have to work it though, it’s not going to happen on its own. 

Q: Do you think there is anything Ross can teach you from the way that Michael Schumacher operated?

There is always speculation as to what Michael did within the team. I think he worked very hard and he was very strong in every area.But I think I have had as much information as I need from Rubens. He was his team-mate for so many years and you can really see that because Rubens also works very hard, and that’s clear to see.It’s good to have a team-mate that works hard, gives a lot of good feedback and that actually cares where this team is going. I don’t think I have really felt that before with my team-mates. So I know hard Michael has worked and I am working as hard as I possibly can to take this team forward. Ross can’t do it on his own, I can’t do it on my own. It needs a team of people to be pulling their weight and I think that is exactly what they are doing.  

Q: So you think what you can learn from Ross is probably more technical stuff and what to do with the car?

It’s not what I learn from Ross but what he can put into to practice with this car and the ideas he can give the team and also working with the different areas of the team and strengthening them. The guy has so much experience in Formula 1 and has also been challenging and winning world championships. He brings a lot to this team and it’s not just about making the car quicker; it’s a about building the team and making sure there is nothing missing. 

Q: Last year it was control tyres, this year it is lack of driver aids – what is the bigger process of adaptation?

For us it is a difficult one because we had such an unpredictable car with the Bridgestones last year, but for me getting used to the tyres was pretty tough. I found it quite difficult but I think that was because the car was so hard to drive. I have found it pretty easy to get used to driving without TC. I haven’t driven in the wet without it, but in the dry it’s easy to get used to. But what you have to realise is these engines have been built to use TC, so taking that away we really do have to work on the driveability of the engine, the torque curve, etc. There is more effort from the drivers going into the driveability of the engine than there has been before because it has become so, so important.And we are improving all the time, we are still not 100% yet, but we have made some good improvements since last November. 

Q: Can you give an insight into how the lack of TC will manifest itself in the races?

I think it is going to be mainly on low fuel when the tyres are getting a bit older. Because when the fuel comes off the car is easier to drive. It’s lighter, more predictable, the change of direction is better so you are going to see the drivers pushing very hard and getting a bit out of shape. Personally I think it is going to add a bit more excitement and you are going to see us more out of shape than we were last year. And when it comes to overtaking, the same thing. You want to get out of the corner, you want to get on the power so the guy doesn’t get you in the next corner, and you going to have big broad sideways moments which I think adds to the spectacle. 

Q: What do you expect Alex Wurz to bring to the team?

Alex brings a lot of experience from working with McLaren and Williams and the great thing about him is that he has been around for a very long time now. He has a real understanding of a Formula 1 car aerodynamically, mechanically… so it’s nice that we can have a driver that is not looking to further his career as a racer, he can knuckle down and be consistent in testing and give very good feedback. I have always heard very good things about Alex, and it’s nice to have that, to have someone that we can really trust in. He is not out there to set the world alight in one lap, like a lot of young drivers would be. For me it’s a no-brainer. You need a guy that’s good at testing, that can be consistent and not just think about himself but the whole package, think about moving the team forward.That’s what Alex loves doing, he loves playing his part in the team and moving it forward and when we start winning on the circuit some of it will be down to him. I think that is what he gets his buzz from. 

Q: Do you expect 2008 to still be dominated by Hamilton-mania in this country?

I think that he is in a position that he can challenge for the world championship for sure. He did a great job in 2007 with McLaren, didn’t quite get the championship, but all the same he did a great job.I think that they will be strong again; we don’t know yet if they are really going to take the challenge to Ferrari, if McLaren are just going to walk it, we really don’t know. But looking at the times in testing they both look very quick.Nobody seems to have closed the gap to them but that could all change by the time we get to Melbourne.For sure, though, if he is at the front challenging for wins I expect people to be writing that he is doing a good job and challenging for wins. Until we get into a position where we can win races then it is going to be all about Hamilton, and I can understand that and I really have no issues with it. It means I can get on and concentrate on developing the car with Honda. 

Q: What’s an acceptable minimum for you this year?

I don’t want to mention points or position finishes. All I have to say is that we need to be at our strongest at the end of the season, and getting stronger at every race we go to. If we are at our strongest at the end of the season and that means winning the race then fantastic, if it means podium great, if it means fifth place that’s where it is. But we need to just keep moving forward. We understand this car, its aerodynamics, we understand the wind tunnel. And to have that is already a massive step forward for us. We can just keep building on what we have, which is something we didn’t have last year. 

Q: You keep talking about the future, do you see yourself being here for three years, five years…?

I think that Honda has to be the team to be with in the future, it has everything now.It is the first time that I can truly say that in every area we are strong and we know which direction we are going in.We have great technical direction with Ross and that is going to make a big difference to this team. I am very happy where I am. 

Q: How much did you push the team that something had to change after last year? Did you set them any deadlines?

We never had an option to not be here this season [pause]. But I wasn’t really thinking about that because I know that Honda want the same thing as me. For sure last year was very tough, and I think Honda realised that something needed to change – I think all of us realised that something needed to change. If we had had a year that was reasonably good where we had finished third or fourth, we would have kept on the same path and maybe achieved the same this year. We never really would have found a way out, but having such a dreadful year we have realised that something seriously needs to change. Not just the personnel but the direction with the car.It’s all good at the moment but as I said this isn’t the final product. There is a lot or work that we need to do to make it competitive. 

Q: You drove well on several occasions last year; how frustrating was it that very few people actually noticed?

Not really. I know F1 is about the front and that is why we want to be at the front because we then achieve our goals which is to win races. China, if nobody noticed in the press it makes no difference to me because me and the team know what I did. We had a great race. 2007 was a very tough year but people who know about F1 said some very nice things about my season and I think that people picked up on how tough it was but also how good a job we did. 

Q: Do you think that mentally and physically you are more prepared than you have ever been?

Yeah I have got every experience possible. I have had it tough, I think a lot of drivers in F1 have and you always go through ups and downs in your career. I couldn’t possibly be any more ready. I feel like I have everything: the fitness level, I have the focus, I have such determination to achieve success in the sport. I have been racing for eight years in F1, but I have never been in the position I am now with a team that I feel is complete. We just have to keep our heads down, forget about the future, and focus on improving and make sure that each part of this team is doing 100%. 

Q: Do you have contract talks coming up at the end of this season?

At the end of this year I’m sure we’ll be talking. 

Q: What sort of improvements would you be looking for?

I want to see improvements throughout the whole year. There is not one area that we have to improve in massively: every area within the factory has to step up another gear and the same with the performance of the car.As I said the most important thing is that we understand this car and where it is in the wind tunnel. Last year when it came to understanding the car we were lost. It was unpredictable and we didn’t know which direction we had to go with it.

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Honda RA108

Honda 2008 Drivers

Honda RA108

The new Honda RA108 was unveiled in Brackley, UK this morning.

Alex Wurz was given the task of driving the new RA108 into the arena where the media were given their first look at the new car.

The new car features a globe on the engine cover, with 2 green stripes down the centre. It’s back to the traditional white car this year.

Below are the personal views of what Button / Barrichello / Wurz think of the new car

Jenson Button :
“My motivation is to be with a team that is setting its sights on performing at the highest level and in a car that is competitive and I have faith in Honda for the period that lies ahead. I want to win races and I want to be in contention to be world champion. The past five years have been challenging and last year was disappointing, but the team has recognised this and set about tackling the areas that have prevented us from achieving best performance. Everyone at the Honda Racing F1 Team has worked incredibly hard over the winter to develop the RA108 ready for the launch today. The changes that we have made to the team over the last six months of 2007 were exactly what the team needed to take us forward this year and I am confident that we have the right people, along with great support and resources from Honda, to achieve our targets.”

Rubens Barrichello :
“I had the opportunity to drive the RA108 for the first time in Valencia last week and although I ran for just a few laps in the new car, we were able to complete the planned activity. It is too soon to reach any conclusions about the car’s handling and performance, but I am looking forward to the Barcelona test this coming weekend and really getting to grips with the development of the RA108. This year will be my 16th season in Formula One and my third season with the Honda Racing F1 Team, but my love of the sport and my enthusiasm is undiminished. In fact, this year I will become the most experienced Grand Prix racer of all time, which is something that I am very proud of. We have a very strong development base this year with Alex Wurz joining the team and I am really pleased that he will be able to input his experience and knowledge into the RA108.”

Alex Wurz – Test & Reserve Driver :

“I have enjoyed getting to know the Honda Racing F1 Team over the past few weeks and took part in my first test with the team at Valencia last week with an acclimatisation programme in the RA107. So far I have only driven the RA108 for a few short metres at the launch event today so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to try out the new car later this week in Barcelona, when I will really be able to start contributing to the development programme. All three of my previous teams have been world championship winners and I am very proud that I have the opportunity to play a role in the pursuit of Honda’s ambitions.”

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The new Honda RA108 was unveiled in Brackley, UK this morning.

Below are the comments about the new car from Ross & Nick

Ross Brawn – Honda Team Principal said :

“The RA108 car is a wholly different concept to its predecessors, in terms of its aerodynamic layout and mechanical structure. The design philosophy has been developed to allow greater scope for aerodynamic packaging and exploitation, particularly to facilitate the introduction of performance upgrades through the season. The focus has been on attaining a high level of aerodynamic efficiency with stability and this is reflected in the way that the chassis has been revised to interact with the different aerodynamic features and the suspension. This approach should allow more potential for further developments to take place, the first of which will be for Melbourne when we will introduce a substantially revised aerodynamic package compared with the car we have launched today.The Honda RA808E engine is subject to the FIA engine homologation regulations and therefore the vast majority of engine components remain unchanged. The exhaust geometry and air box have changed to suit the RA108 aerodynamic package. An additional development is the FIA requirement that the fuel mix should now contain 5.75% biofuel – an initiative that Honda fully supports.
Two of the most significant regulation changes are in the areas of electronics and gearbox. The implementation of an FIA standard electronic control unit and software has meant hard work during the winter tests to integrate the new system with the RA108’s engine, gearbox and chassis systems. With traction control and other driver aids removed from the car there will be a greater emphasis on driver skill.The RA108 carbon composite gearbox has been designed to meet the new regulations which require each gearbox to complete four Grand Prix. We have conducted extensive running on a test bed to optimise the gearbox design and ensure that we can be confident of meeting the levels of reliability required. The design of the RA108 ensures that all key areas comply with the FIA safety regulations and crash test requirements for the impact structures, such as the nose, monocoque and rear impact structure. We have also increased the protection for the driver around the headrest area.Our target for 2008 is to get back to the position occupied during the second half of the 2006 season when Honda fought for points at every race. Only then will we have a stable base from which to target more ambitious results. Since joining Honda my focus has been on evaluating the resources and practices of the operation and understanding how we can progress. I commend the entire team on the effort and commitment they have shown after a disappointing 2007. We will have to wait and see how much of a performance step has been achieved with this car, but in terms of people and resources, all the right ingredients are in place with which to move the Honda Racing F1 Team forward in pursuit of its racing ambitions.”

Nick Fry – Honda Chief Executive Officer said :

“Following a year where we failed to live up to our own expectations, the team has made a number of key appointments in the second half of 2007 to strengthen our existing resource as well as bringing on board new knowledge and different experience. In particular, the arrival of Ross in the position of Team Principal has brought new impetus and confidence to the whole organisation. This time last year saw the beginning of a downward curve for us and there is a determined sense that this year we are back on track. We have done everything possible to honestly address the issues, which we have to view as valuable experiences which have helped to put us in better shape for this year and for the years ahead. Every area, from technical and aerodynamics to marketing, has been strengthened with world class resource. The disappointments of 2007 power our desire to do well in 2008. I am very pleased for our whole team that their hard work has resulted in the RA108 meeting all its design targets on paper. We now need to work hard between now and Melbourne to make sure that those translate into good track performance and to discover whether these targets are sufficiently high compared with the achievements of our competitors. Today also sees the introduction of earthdreams, a global cause related marketing programme inspired by the Honda Racing F1 Team and evolved from the 2007  “myearthdream” initiative. earthdreams mission is to harness the power of dreams by supporting, investing in and empowering inspirational projects that have a positive impact on the world around them which will be supported by Honda and its partners. We have already informed projects that have been supported by earthdreams so far and we look forward to working with existing and new partners to contribute to those good causes. In particular I would like to thank Seiko on behalf of the recipients for their generous contributions and support.”

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Jenson Button’s girlfriend has hit the headlines today,  it was announced that she has been hired to model for the British department store chain John Lewis. 

Florence Brudenell-Bruce, who descended from Britain’s earls of Cardigan and began dating Honda driver Button last year, was hired to help “sex up” the John Lewis brand, a spokesman said.

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James Rossiter

Super Aguri Honda did not get its new year test session off to the best of starts after overheating problems prevented the team from testing on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday, Anthony Davidson spent a frustrating day watching the action from the sidelines once again. The team had been hoping to receive the parts they needed to cure the overheating issues that had marred the opening day of their action. But a scheduled plane that was due to arrive at Gibraltar at midday ran into technical problems, and the components had to be flown to Malaga instead. 
A team member attempted to drive the parts to the Jerez track only to find that the motorway from Malaga was closed due to road works – meaning the test finished before the essential parts arrived.
In total, the team managed ten timed laps on Monday with James Rossiter behind the wheel of the SA07B.

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kubica.jpg

The first laps of the BMW Sauber’s new car went off according to plan. The doors of the pit garage opened at 12.00, and seven minutes later Robert Kubica emerged with the BMW Sauber F1.08 for its first installation lap on the Valencia circuit.
It was the first time that Kubica had been given the honour of taking a Formula One car out on its maiden drive. The Pole enjoyed the task, commenting: “It was a good start. I’ve only driven a few laps so far, but I have the impression that everything is heading in the right direction. The car feels more stable than its predecessor and it builds up more grip. I’m looking forward to the test days to come.”
Team-mate Nick Heidfeld had already taken the car out on a few demonstration laps at BMW Welt, the company’s futuristic-looking delivery centre in Munich.
In Valencia he drove the F1.07 on Tuesday, and Thursday will see him at the wheel of the F1.08. “I really enjoyed driving the old car as well,” said Heidfeld. “During the winter break there were a few weeks when I hadn’t been in the car. The F1.08 is the most beautiful vehicle I have seen in my F1 career. It has a lot of interesting details. I’m really excited about getting inside it on Thursday!”

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