Jenson Button was the only Honda Racing F1 Team driver to finish this afternoon’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. The British driver came home in 15th place, while his team-mate Rubens Barrichello retired just before half distance with a gearbox problem.
The weather played a crucial part in the outcome of the race. Rain showers prior to the start meant that the early laps took place on a damp track. Rubens and Jenson weaved through the spinning cars ahead of them at Turn 1 to emerge in 15th and 16th positions respectively.
A dry line appeared on the racetrack after a couple of laps, allowing them to improve their lap times and set about reducing the gap to Jarno Trulli ahead of them. On lap 10 Rubens was able to overtake Trulli to move up to 14th place. He was up to 12th position by lap 15, but that was as high as the Brazilian climbed because he lost sixth gear at and was forced to retire shortly after his first pitstop.
Jenson, meanwhile, planned to make just one pitstop, on lap 22, but when the rain started to fall three laps from the end, he made a further stop for wet tyres on the penultimate lap. He came home in 15th place.
The Honda Racing F1 Team now heads south, to Milan, for the final European round of the season, the Italian Grand Prix on 14 September.Jenson Button:
A difficult race today in which you were unable to make much progress up the field?
"It's been a tough weekend and unfortunately the car's performance has been a long way off where I thought we would be here in Spa. I didn't have a great start from 17th and got completely boxed in with cars everywhere that I wanted to go. I then lost some time in the train of cars caught behind Rubens when he had his gearbox problem. The car was not handling well at all throughout the first stint as I had no grip and very little balance. So when I came in and switched to the prime tyre, we added front wing which I thought we needed, but not having had the the opportunity to compare the two tyres yesterday, this unfortunately gave me too much front end. Our rear tyre pressures were also too low which made the car very difficult to drive."Rubens Barrichello:
What was the cause of your retirement from today’s race?
"The race was actually going quite well for me but unfortunately I lost sixth gear not long after I overtook Trulli. I tried to keep going but with the way that the gearbox works, you have to go through sixth gear before you can get seventh gear, which caused over-revving of the engine and the potential for significant damage. The team decided it would be best to retire the car as this is my first race with this engine and I have to race with it at Monza next weekend. Overall it has not been a great weekend. Our biggest problem has been our struggle to get temperature into the tyres, which affected our performance very badly."Ross Brawn, Team Principal:
Sum up the team’s Belgian Grand Prix today.
“Both cars got off to a clean start gaining a place each. We decided to split the strategy such that Rubens would be two-stopping and Jenson only once, in order to be well placed to take advantage of any variable weather conditions and safety car periods. Rubens did a valiant job of battling through almost ten laps without sixth gear. However we indentified that the problem with the gearbox was getting worse and it became dangerous for him to continue as we risked damaging the engine and transmission and the engine was new for this race. As a result of running behind Rubens during this period, Jenson lost touch with the cars he was competing with. Jenson had good pace up until his planned pitstop but struggled for pace after switching to the prime tyre.”Tell us about the decision to stop again at the end of the race with Jenson.
“In the closing laps of the race we decided to switch to wets, as the cars around us were struggling in the rain and there may have been a chance to take advantage. The cars who remained on dry tyres lost a lot of time in the final lap and most lost position. Unfortunately it all came too late in the race for Jenson to move into a points position and this ultimately proved to be a neutral strategy for us, with nothing lost or gained.”