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When will it go right for Honda? 23 Apr 2006

Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Race Day, Imola, Italy, 23 April 2006

The luckless Honda team must be wondering just what they have to do to change their fortunes after another bitterly disappointing race performance in Imola.

Once again, to begin with it all seemed to be going so well. Jenson Button put in another stunning qualifying performance, putting his car on P2 and lining up next to the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher. Neither Renault nor McLaren were able to match the Honda’s pace.

And there was more good news in Rubens Barrichello’s welcome return to form. After a miserable start to the season, the Brazilian finally came to terms with his car and recorded a flying lap good enough for a third on the grid.

But, once again, everything started to go wrong for Honda almost as soon as the red lights went out. Button held on to second after a strong start, and proceeded to stay in touch with Schumacher’s flying Ferrari. Barrichello, however, suffered a disappointing opening lap and was quickly overwhelmed by both Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and Fernando Alonso’s Renault.

Button held second until his first stop, but by the time the other front-runners had made their respective visits to the pits, he had dropped to third behind Alonso. He still looked to be in the running for a podium position until a disastrous second stop effectively ruined his chances. After his stop-board was lifted too soon, Button exited with the refuelling nozzle still in his car, knocking over several mechanics - although fortunately there was no further mishap when the nozzle was torn off the hose. He lost more time as the team recovered the nozzle from the car, and only managed to salvage two world championship points with an eventual seventh place finish.

Barrichello had, if anything, a more miserable time. Having dropped down the order after the start, he found himself battling for pace - emerging from an over-long first pitstop in only 13th place. From there to the flag, the race barely got better for him and he eventually finished out of the points in 10th, a demoralising 40 seconds behind team mate Button.

Honda will know that if they want any chance of making a serious impression in this year’s championship, things will have to improve dramatically and quickly.