2008: Honda

Jenson Button, Honda RA108, Barcelona, 2008 pre-season testing, 2 | HondaRacingF1.comHonda had a nightmare 2007. But chief executive Nick Fry did the right thing by using it as a starting point for major change.

Fry scored a major coup by luring Ross Brawn to the team as principal. He’s made several other astute hires in the past 12 months including Loic Bigois (aerodynamics), Jorg Zander (technical director) and Alexander Wurz (test driver). But I think Brawn’s shrewd mind isn’t going to waste too much time on 2008 when a major regulations change is due for next year:

We need to see where we are at the start of the season and then decide n the merits of what sort of programme we have with this car and what we put into ’09… We have to take a very strong view from ’09 and make sure we balance resources for the future.

Brawn has joined the team too late to have an impact on the fundamentals of the 2008 car, the RA108. Honda has also put a lot of effort into its KERS project for 2009 and they are believed to have the most advanced system so far.

So have the team already written 2008 off in their minds to focus on next year? I think they are more orientated towards 2009 than the other teams, but I still expect to see an improvement from them this year.

Rubens Barrichello has spoken of the disorganisation that paralysed strategic decisions in races last year, and Brawn will surely bring swift order to that chaos. Having worked together at Ferrari from 2000-2005, Barrichello is a fan of Brawn’s style and thinks he’s the right man for the job:

Basically he’s a very good person to organize the team and to get everyone on their right positions. Right now, Honda has the ability and we have good people working with us, but we needed a leader and someone to control the whole Honda team, and I think that’s why he’s in the right place.

At the end of the day, I think that there are no changes from what he has done in the past. Team principal or technical director, he can do fantastically well.

Jenson Button, Honda RA108, Barcelona, 2008 pre-season testing, 3 | HondaRacingF1.comWith Barrichello and Brawn having enjoyed a productive working relationship in the past, might this cause problems for Jenson Button? I don’t think so – the British driver is in his sixth year with the team, he’s staked his reputation on their success, and he’s surely smart enough to realise that after a shocking 2007, change can only be good.

The 2008 RA108 is an entirely new car and although testing does not seem to have gone well, the team usually well towards the bottom of the time sheets, the team say progress has been made and the car’s stability under braking is already greatly improved. They will test the definitive aerodynamic specification in a private session at Jerez next week.

Is this a sign of things to come? I think we’ll see a more respectable Honda in 2008. But Ross Brawn in only in his first year with the team and I bet he’s playing the long game. He knows that next year’s regulation changes offer a major chance to make up ground on the front runners, and he’ll divert every ounce of spare capacity into making the 2009 car a winner.

Photos copyright: HondaRacingF1.com

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1 comment on 2008: Honda

  1. I agree that Ross Brawn is looking 2009 and beyond. Not only because of regulation changes, but because the car and team went to pieces last year and that alone will take some time to correct.

    I am however very disappointed with Honda in testing this year and don’t see any improvement over last season until at least mid season.

    I hope they prove me wrong.

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