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Q&A with Gil de Ferran

Written by: Adam Cooper

Northamptonshire, UK – 6/13/2006

The Honda team has endured some nightmarish weekends this season. For example, in Australia Jenson Button tumbled down to fifth and then had a last lap engine failure, and then in Imola the Brit was delayed by a botched pit stop. But nothing quite prepared driver or team for their joint home race at Silverstone.

Incredibly, Button failed to make it through the first round of qualifying, and had to start 19th. He made up some ground in the opening laps before an oil leak led to a spin, a spectacular fire, and an ignominious early retirement. Meanwhile Rubens Barrichello showed what might have been by qualifying a respectable sixth, although he had only just edged ahead of Jenson in that first session. The pit stops proved that his was a competitive performance, but in the race he faded badly to an eventual 10th place finish.

It was the first time this year that Honda had failed to pick up any points at all. For a team that went to the first race in Bahrain expecting to be within a shout of the World Championship, 2006 isn’t turning out too well. We spoke to sporting director Gil de Ferran about the highs and lows of the British GP weekend.

Q: This was a difficult weekend for Honda. How do you see it?

"It was difficult, you know, and it hurts, no question. It was a tough weekend. Having Jenson not finish the race, and Rubens also had a tough afternoon, struggling with the balance all day, was clearly not what we wanted. But we’ve got to take it on the chin and keep moving."

Q: Do you know what happened to Jenson?

"It was an oil leak, which they are investigating. But the engine itself was working fine."

Q: On the positive side, at least he passed a few people before it happened…

"That’s the good thing, I’m sure his early laps put a smile on a few people’s faces. He charged really hard, right from the start, and showed what he’s made off. I’ll guess we’ll never know how well he would have done."

Q: The other positive was Rubens’ qualifying lap. He stopped relatively late compared to the others, so it was good lap…

"I think Rubens did a great job and got everything out of the car. But in the race he just lost the balance, and that was that."

Q: Australia and Imola were low points this season, and now this. Where do you go from here – you seem to be going from one drama to the other…

"I think we’ve just got to continue to focus on the things that will improve our performance. It’s very important to keep our eye on the ball on this one, and go back home, re-group, and see if we can do anything to improve our performance in Canada. You’ve got to go step by step, there’s no magic leap that we can make. We’ve just got to go step by step."

Q: But you’ve been through that process after difficult races like the ones I mentioned…

"We’ve just got to keep improving. If you start from the standpoint that the desirable outcome is P1, we’re certainly not there. Like I said, we’ve just got to keep taking steps until we get there."

Q: Jenson’s talking up the new full size wind tunnel as being a positive step. Is that something that gives you encouragement?

"I there are a lot of positive steps. The wind tunnel started working a few weeks’ ago, and of course that will not give us instantaneous performance, but hopefully it will improve our performance and get us better results in the latter part of the year."

Q: Jenson has been on pole at Montreal in the past. Any thoughts on the next race?

"I don’t want to make any predictions. We just want to regroup and see where we are. We’re testing at Monza this week, so let’s see if we can draw some good conclusions for Canada."
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