Wed, Oct 04, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Honda aims for victory at final Suzuka F1 race

AFP , TOKYO

Formula One driver David Coulthard, left, of Red Bull Racing selects some food from a hot dish under the guidance of ozeki sumo wrestler Kotooshu during a traditional chanko lunch at a sumo restaurant in Tokyo yesterday, ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Honda will aim for the podium by using a "special engine" at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Sunday as a tribute to their home track which will be dropped from the Formula One calendar next year.

"I'll be looking for a very special result," Honda racer Jenson Button said in Tokyo yesterday in the run-up to the 17th Grand Prix of the 18-leg season.

The 26-year-old Englishman said that Suzuka's exclusion from the F1 circuit was a "massive disappointment for myself and obviously it is for the whole team."

"So we are looking for a good result and it'll be great if we finish on the podium," said Button, who scored his first career GP win in Hungary last August and the first in 39 years for Honda as a full constructor.

He is currently sixth in the points table.

The technical figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit, home to the Japanese Grand Prix (GP) since 1987, has lost the right to host the event to the Fuji Speedway owned by rival Toyota. Fuji's GP contract will last five years from next year.

"I've been knocking on the door to be on the podium so many times this year," said Button's teammate Rubens Barrichello, who has finished fourth twice but no better in his first season after moving from Ferarri, where he won nine times.

"And I want to achieve that in the last two races," added the 34-year-old, who won here in 2003 as a sidekick to Germany's seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.

"The last two races will be home Grand Prix for me. I will give it my very, very best," the Brazilian veteran said.

The final GP is in Sao Paolo on Oct. 22.

"So with the special engine and special everything that will be given to these GP, I hope we can achieve that," he said.

Barrichello said the engine "is very powerful and it has been very reliable in testing."

Honda technical director Shuhei Nakamoto said that the upgraded "Suzuka special" engine had been tested for a few months as a "culmination of all our development work on the V8 unit."

"The engine in testing is definitely an improvement on what we have already. That's gonna help us this weekend," said Button, who has been with Honda for four years, first with the BAR outfit which was bought by Honda last year.

"If it is dry, it is going to be a real fight going to the podium," he said of Sunday's race. "And, if it is wet, we have a car that is competitive in the wet conditions. And it is going to very, very exciting if it is wet."

Button finished fourth in the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend, which started in the rain but where the surface eventually dried, forcing tire changes. Barrichello finished sixth in the race which was won by Schumacher, who is battling to the wire with Spaniard Fernando Alonso for this year's title.

Honda team boss Nick Fry said that both his drivers had finished in the points in the last four races.

"At our level now, the absolute minimum expectation is for both of the drivers to have a point finish," he said. "Really, our objective is to be on the podium and that's what we hope to do next weekend."

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