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Honda and Button make the breakthrough 06 Aug 2006

Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) Honda on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, 6 August 2006

Jenson Button must have lost count of the number of times he has been on a Formula One podium. Only on Sunday, however, did he finally find out what it feels like to stand on the top step, following his hard-earned win in the wet-dry Hungaroring race.

It was a win that almost no one would have predicted before the start lights went out. As in Germany, the pace of the Honda’s had been strong throughout practice and qualifying, but their reliability had been suspect.

An engine change on Saturday had dropped Button from fourth to 14th on the grid, and if any Honda driver was going to win, it would surely be Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian having out-qualified his team mate to start third.

But as the race began it quickly become clear that Barrichello’s choice of full-wet tyres was the wrong one. By the time he pitted on lap five for intermediates, Button - who had started on the inters - had already made his way up to fifth, his car working perfectly in the difficult conditions.

After a strong pass on Michael Schumacher to take fourth place, Button didn’t look back, his three-stop strategy with a late switch to dry tyres working to perfection. He had the legs on mid-race leader Fernando Alonso, whom he hounded for several laps, but in the end he didn’t even had to make the pass.

Once the world champion retired with mechanical problems on lap 52, Button never looked like losing the lead, even when he made his third stop (many of his rivals only made two) on lap 54. And the fact that Button’s best lap was a full 1.5 seconds slower than Felipe Massa’s fastest effort was testament to just how good Honda’s strategy had been.

The win marked a remarkable turnaround for the Japanese team, who prior to the previous round in Germany had scored just three points from four races. Along with Barrichello’s eventual fourth place, the result consolidates their fourth place in the constructors’ standings. On 52 points, they are 24 clear of BMW Sauber and 33 behind McLaren.