BAR star ready to focus on the racing in Hungary
It may have been almost 30 degrees C here on Thursday, but the atmosphere was very cool initially at BAR as Jenson Button faced his team mates for the first time since last weeks announcement that he intends to return to Williams for the 2005 season.
The Englishman had had a face-to-face meeting with team principal David Richards last Sunday, but this was the first time that he was back with the people with whom he has been working all season.
Nevertheless, there is a tangible air of expectation among the Michelin runners, and after stonewalling his way through a press conference with a number of no comment responses, Button got back on to more comfortable ground when he was asked about BARs race prospects.
I dont think that Ferrari will have their usual advantage here this weekend, he said. I think we have a very strong package, I like this circuit, and we are all looking forward to making the most of our chances.
Mark Webber echoes the sentiments for Jaguar, having run as high as second here in 2004, while Renault are feeling quietly confident with their latest version of the RS24 engine, in D specification, allied to an R24 chassis that has become a little less quirky at high speed and more forgiving on this type of track.
Williams have a more conventional appearance here, as the latest aerodynamic configuration embraces a return to the longer, more pointed nose and front wing arrangement. This is said to offer similar performance to the unusual tusk nose which has made the FW26 so distinctive all year, but to have small but worthwhile improvements in sensitivity. Juan Pablo Montoya said yesterday that he is feeling cautiously optimistic that Williams and Michelin will be in a better position to challenge Ferrari this weekend.
We havent been able to test the new arrangement, the Colombian said, but it looks quite good in the wind tunnel, so Im hopeful. We had a good race here last year in terms of speed, though we were unlucky, so maybe we can do something good this weekend.
At McLaren, David Coulthard said he has was very enthusiastic about the changes that have made such an improvement to the hitherto unloved MP4-19B since Silverstone, and that he thought it would be very well suited to the unusual characteristics of the Hungaroring.
Potentially theres more performance for this race. We have to see how we stand relative to the other Michelin runners, we were a little bit different in Hockenheim. But I think that was a good choice.
Meanwhile, down at Toyota, Ricardo Zonta is clearly very happy to be back in harness as a race driver again, while the young Australian European F3 champion Ryan Briscoe is due to get his first chance to shine in todays tests as he takes over Zontas previous third driver role for the team.
Now that we have the B specification car I am really looking forward to the chance to secure a good result for the team this weekend, Zonta said. I think the lower centre of gravity in particular will be advantageous here.
It could be an interesting day if, as expected, it rains. Thats a fairly unusual occurrence here; the last occasion that the weather was really bad at the Hungaroring was on Friday morning back in 1988 when it rained so much there were whispers of the possibility of the event being abandoned, yet by the time practice resumed for the afternoon everywhere was literally bone dry, such are the characteristics of the local weather.