Let the battle commence! Between Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, that is. Honda finally bought out BAT’s remaining half of the team last year (then known as BAR, now renamed to Honda) and now have a fully-fledged squad to attack the championship with. Honda have also hired Barrichello to partner Jenson for 2006, and seriously look like F1 race winners now. The team is really coming together, as are their facilities and technical knowledge. The team appears to be better structured and – well – it all looks rosey over at the Japanese garage.
Jenson has put the past behind him, and managed to move on from the Button-gate ‘scandal’ that dogged him for a couple of years. The whole BAR to Williams to BAR to Williams to Honda thing put a big downer on all things Button, and caused a stir among those who are fans to F1 and also to the Brit. But Jenson is now a Honda man, and he is looking good in testing.
The Honda engine is a mighty unit, and if they can resolve some of their reliability issues that plagued Takuma Sato last year, they might have a potential winner on their hands. Jenson has been looking so close for the past couple of years to win a race. 2004 – was a big year for the team, and they only finished second in the constructors championship to the dominant Ferrari. 2005 – in contrast – wasn’t such a good year. The car wasn’t as quick and the rules got the better of them when the team were banned for 3 races for technical infringement of the regulations. BAR hyped up their return with intentions of race wins, but alas it did not happen. In fact, the team only managed to claw back the lost points towards the end of the season, and even then the pace of the car wasn’t spectacular.
Now BAR have become Honda, they may have a bit more stability, and Honda having so much success with engines in the past will want to replicate that with their own team. For sure, the ambition is definitely there.
Honda have secured the services of Rubens Barrichello, which is a big boost for the team. They took a potentially explosive situation by releasing Sato – a driver whom Honda ‘corporate’ really wanted to have in the team – and replaced with a Brazilian. Had Honda not invested in Super Aguri, they would have been very upset at the lack of a Japanese driver controlling the Japanese power plant. But everything turned out okay in the end, with Sato heading over over Super Aguri’s Honda-powered outfit. That makes Button and Barrichello a very exciting team for 2006.
Barrichello has been number two at Ferrari for a few years now, and partnered with Michael Schumacher during Ferrari’s dominant period, he gained only a few wins. Barrichello rarely outpaced Schumacher, but his raw speed and determination have always shone through, even if it didn’t always show on the circuit. With Ferrari behind him, Rubens looks refreshed and re-energized. His motivation is at an all-time high, and he has been beaming with confidence at every test session. It is almost as though he has been born again and cannot wait to show the world. Rubens should do well in 2006, and I for one cannot wait to see the clash over the maiden victory and the on-track fights that are bound to follow.
And this is – or course – excellent news for Honda. With two great drivers, one of which is already a race winner, they should be racking up the points this season. Whilst they may not be championship contenders just yet, I’m sure that if they continue the way they are at the moment, it’ll only be a couple more years.