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Button puts Honda back in the hunt 30 Jul 2006

Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA106 celebrates his fourth place finish.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Race, Hockenheim, Germany, 30 July 2006

Aside from Ferrari, the team with perhaps most to smile about this weekend were Honda. After a frustrating lack of form in recent races, the Japanese squad undoubtedly bounced back in Hockenheim, with Jenson Button's fourth place securing five much-needed championship points.

After the despair of the last round at Magny-Cours, where both Hondas retired with mechanical issues, the first hint of improvement came in Jerez testing last week. Rubens Barrichello and Button were the two fastest drivers around the Spanish circuit on the final day of the session, assisted by new developments on the RA106.

And in Germany both drivers were competitive in all three practice sessions before an excellent qualifying seemingly confirmed that the team’s hard work was finally paying off. Button took fourth on the grid and Rubens Barrichello was sixth, with only the Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella splitting the team mates. Some thought they were running light, but the race was to prove this wasn’t the case.

Although a slow start saw Button passed by both Renaults, he was able to almost immediately repass them to run third for much of the race. After dropping to fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen in the closing laps, he eventually came home five seconds behind the McLaren, but safely ahead of both Renaults.

Barrichello’s race followed a similar pattern initially, with a modest start followed by some strong pace which allowed the Brazilian to start fighting his was back through the field. However, an engine failure on lap 19 brought an early end to what looked set to be a promising afternoon.

A glance at the lap times also confirmed Honda’s revival. Button’s seventh-fastest time was just half a second shy of Michael Schumacher’s best - a stark contrast to the situation in France where the team were almost 1.5 seconds off the red cars.

Button’s points were Honda’s first since the United States Grand Prix in June. Although the team remain fourth in the constructor’s standings, a full 40 points adrift of third-placed McLaren, they have extended their lead over Japanese rivals Toyota to 14 points.