Today's qualifying session in Magny Cours turned out to be character-building for the Honda Racing F1 Team. A lack of pace meant that Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were unable to progress through to Q2 and they will line up in 17th and 18th positions respectively for the start of tomorrow's 70 lap French Grand Prix.
Jenson completed three timed laps during Q1. He left the garage early in the session to set a lap of 1:17.144, after which he made set-up changes to his RA108. He improved his time to a 1:16.306 on his second lap, which placed him 17th overall, and he was unable to improve on his final run.
Rubens completed two flying laps during the 20-minute session. His first, a 1:16.330, was just shy of his team-mate and when he didn't improve on his second lap, he ended the session in 18th position.
The focus now turns to maximising every opportunity to progress further up the field in tomorrow's race.
Weather: Hot and sunny Temperatures: Air: 26-27°C ; Track: 41-49°C
Q. Not the result you were hoping for from today's qualifying session. What issues did you face? A. "A very disappointing qualifying session today. The car was well balanced and we are pretty much getting the maximum performance from it, however unfortunately our pace reflects where we are at this track. My last run was slow as I was called into the weighbridge and then had to wait in the pit box as there was not enough time to go back into the garage before my final run. That meant that my tyres had cooled down which compromised my lap, although I don't think we could have improved enough to go through to Q2 anyway. Hopefully we can be more competitive in race trim but it's disappointing and unexpected as we thought that the car would perform better around this circuit."
Q. After points-finishes in the last two races, how hard will it be for you to line up at the back of the field tomorrow? A. "A pure lack of performance from the car today. The lap times have been very close all weekend but unfortunately we are at the lower end of the grid. We are really pushing the limit of the car to try and achieve more pace but it is evident from how close Jenson and I have been all weekend that there is no more to come from the car. Having achieved a good balance after practice, it's hard to accept the lack of pace, but we just have to try and do our best from here and see what the race will bring."
Steve Clark, Head of Race & Test Engineering:
Q. A disappointing result. What went wrong for the team today? A. "Unfortunately, it is not the case that anything went wrong, as such. We felt that we had made good progress overnight and had effectively addressed the handling issues of yesterday. The cars were well balanced with no obvious problems and the closeness of the two drivers reflects the fact that unfortunately that is the pace of the car. As always, the middle order is extremely competitive and we needed 0.3s to make it through to Q2. However, it doesn't seem that we could have found that time in the car today."
Q. You expected to be more competitive here. Is this a reflection of the car or this particular circuit? A. "On paper this is a track which should play to our strengths much more than Montreal, so we have been rather surprised and disappointed. Magny-Cours has always been a little unusual in terms of set-up and we have to hope that our pace deficit is specific to this race and that our form will return for the next few races. Considering how close the grids are then a few tenths in performance can make a huge difference in position. We hope that our forthcoming developments will mean we can still look forward to a competitive second half of the season. For now though we feel a little more confident in our race pace, so our focus is doing what we can to improve the car for tomorrow."