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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 06:07 GMT
Button expects Honda improvement
Jenson Button
Button feels Honda will be more competitive this season
Britain's Jenson Button says his Honda team are capable of surprising their critics when the new Formula One season gets under way on Sunday.

Button accepts that Honda will struggle to score points in the Australian Grand Prix, but says he has been impressed with the progress the team has made.

Honda finished third from bottom last season with just six points.

"We are going to be a lot closer and actually racing with the slower part of that middle pack," said Button.

"It's quite exciting. We've really got a good step forward in aerodynamics.

"It was a very positive test, but there's still a long way to go before we get competitive at the front of the field.

The most important thing for us is to put together a really strong 2009 package

Ross Brawn
Honda team boss
"If it keeps going the way we think it is going to go and it stays on track then I'll be very happy."

Button, starting his third year with Honda, said the new season would still be something of a step into the unknown.

"I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Some of it is because we don't know where we are. Everyone remembers us from Barcelona (where Honda recorded slow times in pre-season testing)," he added.

"I don't think they've got a lot to worry about, a lot of the teams, but I think we'll be a little bit closer."

Andrew Benson - BBC Sport

Button's team-mate Rubens Barrichello was also impressed with the recent results in testing.

The Brazilian, who failed to net a single point last season, said: "In my 16 years of F1, I never had an improvement as big as I had last week. We did improve the car quite a lot."

Honda's new boss Ross Brawn believes the new aerodynamic technology will make them more competitive over the course of the season.

"It will be one step at a time but I'm encouraged by the progress we made last week. The new car is much more consistent with long runs," he said.

Brawn, who joined Honda last year after a sabbatical in the wake of his successful decade at Ferrari, called the testing session a "very encouraging first step" to improving the under-performing team.

"I think we should compete with a group of cars there, but certainly not compete with the front of the group," he said.

"In Melbourne, we have to do a very good job, because even in the middle of the group it's very competitive."

Brawn believes teams such as BMW Sauber, Williams, Renault and Red Bull will have similar lap times and be "within a quite small time difference."

But Brawn has admitted Honda will focus much of their effort this year on being well prepared for a change in regulations next year.

"There is, in my view, an opportunity in 2009 with the new regulations and we have to seize that opportunity.

"At the moment, we're playing catch-up on the aerodynamic side but with new regulations, everyone starts again, so we're going to have a very strong focus on 2009.

"We'll match our 2008 programme to our 2009 requirements but it's fair to say that the most important thing for us is to put together a really strong 2009 package and do as good a job as we can with the 2008 car.

"I'm very optimistic for the team. I'm meeting a very good attitude and commitment.

"There's no reason why Honda shouldn't, long-term, achieve the things that have been achieved by the other top teams. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

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