Honda in the spotlight in Canada 23 Jun 2006
... while Raikkonen stays tightlipped over future
Reports of Geoff Willis departure as technical director at Honda have sent a few shockwaves through the paddock on the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix, following the appointment earlier this week of Shuhei Nakamoto as senior
technical director over his head.
Nakamoto is also the head of Honda Racing Development, but it seems his appointment was a bridge too far for the English aerodynamicist who had moved to the team, formerly known as BAR, in 2002 after being chief aerodynamicist at Williams for five years. Willis was lured there by none other than Adrian Newey, who had previously brought him in to work with him on computational fluid dynamics at Leyton House Racing back in 1990.
The appointment of Nakamoto is arguably the first sign of the anger and frustration that has been building up in Tokyo, where the Honda Board had expected to be fighting for wins in 2006. Thus far this season that has not
happened, and people are getting impatient. Last year Jenson Button put his BAR Honda on pole position here, but there has been a downturn in performance in recent races and action of some sort was almost inevitable.
While there is a lot of pressure in the Honda camp (something Button diplomatically preferred not to talk about in detail), McLaren would also like to see a return to their 2005 form here, where Kimi Raikkonen won and set the fastest lap. I like the circuit, the Finn said yesterday. Okay, it's not the most challenging one, but it's good for racing. Last year was good, even if we had some problems with the car last year, we were still able to win and hopefully it will also go well this year. Testing at Monza last week was not too bad, actually. We tried many different things and we had more time to work on the car than in many other tests that we've done. Not so much tyre work, so it was quite nice.
For sure, last year everybody in the team was expecting us to be fighting for the championship, and for sure that was the case and now were for sure not in as strong a position as last year so I think it's not the level of confidence that it was last year - coming into this race trying to win and I think we need to have a very good car and some things could happen. We just have to do the best that we can.
Inevitably, Raikkonen was cagey about his future, and the much talked about possibility of moves to either Ferrari or Renault: I think there are many things that I have to be 100 percent sure and that I will get them. It could be a small thing, but in the end, for me it's a big thing so I just have to wait some time to see where we're going with our team and then look at my options.
He insisted that what Michael Schumacher does wont influence him. It doesn't make any difference. My decision is my own. Even Alonso has a contract with Mercedes and McLaren already - it doesn't make my decision any different, or Michael obviously. In the end I will make a decision that is right for me.