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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 June 2006, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
No quick fix for Button
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Silverstone

Jenson Button
Button has plenty to ponder after a dismal British GP weekend
Jenson Button says he has been so frustrated at times this year he has felt like taking a hammer to the cars of his rivals at Renault and Ferrari.

After a weekend like this one, he might well feel the same way about his own Honda.

A season that started with Button expecting at the very least to end his long wait for a Formula One win has collapsed to the extent that it is fair to say Honda are approaching crisis point.

Even Button, who tries hard to be a positive force for his team, described his retirement on the ninth lap at Silverstone as "a massive blow".

His disappointment in the race followed what he described as a "balls-up" in qualifying that led to him being eliminated in the first session and lining up 19th on the grid.

Team boss Nick Fry blamed that on the decision of race stewards to have Button's car weighed.

But teams have to account for such interventions.

It is difficult, for example, to imagine Renault or Ferrari being caught out.

And Honda sources confirmed that there was still enough time to get Button out onto the track again had the team not dithered.

Such strategic errors are relatively easily solved, as long as they are acknowledged as such.

But Honda have an even more fundamental problem - namely making a competitive racing car.

Honda drivers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button
Barrichello is the Honda driver with most to smile about at the moment

Their pre-season optimism was based on some impressive performances in winter testing, in which they seemed evenly matched with world champions Renault.

Honda started the season relatively well, even if they flattered in qualifying only to deceive a little in the races.

Since then, though, things have started to fall apart, and no-one at the team seems able - or willing - to explain why.

Button admits he is frustrated at the team's inability to build on their early-season form.

"The first couple of races were pretty much where we thought we were," he said.

"We weren't quite on the pace of the Renaults but it was pretty good.

"We were quite a long way ahead of the rest of the field, but then it started to go downhill after Australia.

"I think the reason is Renault and Ferrari especially have made really big improvements in every race.

"They just seem to have had new bits on the car and they've really stepped up their game.

"With us, we have made improvements but nowhere near as much. It's staying competitive for the whole season where we're losing out a little bit."

This is the party line trotted out by everyone at Honda. But while undoubtedly addressing some of the problems, it does not identify the causes.

Apart from 2004, Honda (or BAR-Honda as they were until this season) have rarely looked like building a competitive car.

Even then their pace was flattered by unusually weak performances from key rivals.

F1 insiders are now wondering whether Honda understand how to solve their car's problems - or even know exactly what they are.

Jenson Button
It's going to be difficult in the next few races

Jenson Button

Questions are being asked, too, of Button himself, especially now new team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who struggled early on this year, has found his feet and is starting to outpace the Englishman.

Button is undoubtedly very fast. He has an incredibly smooth style, reminiscent of the great four-time champion Alain Prost, and when a car is to his liking he is among the very best.

But it is less clear whether he is as capable as Fernando Alonso or Michael Schumacher when it comes to adapting to a car that behaves in a way he does not like.

Button's ability to guide a team out of a difficult period by pinpointing exactly the areas that are holding the car back is also under scrutiny, given Honda's failure so far to fix the car's problems.

But these are relatively minor issues. Few doubt that, given a winning car, Button would win races. The onus, then, is on Honda to give him one.

Honda peddle a good line in relentless positivity, but even Button and Fry admit the team "have issues".

New aerodynamic parts, designed in a brand new, high-tech wind tunnel, will be introduced at the next race.

But, as Button said, Honda do not know if those changes will enable them to challenge the top teams.

"It's going to be difficult in the next few races," he added.

Honda's problem is that it is hard to see right now when those tough times might come to an end.



SEE ALSO
Button dismay at race retirement
11 Jun 06 |  Formula One
Alonso cruises to Silverstone win
11 Jun 06 |  Formula One
British Grand Prix photos
11 Jun 06 |  Photo Galleries
British GP diary
11 Jun 06 |  Formula One


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