Honda may not be expecting to move mountains in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix - especially with rain unlikely over Budapest - but the team is hoping that developments tried out at last week's Jerez test can at least make it more of a factor in the midfield battle.
With a lot of attention focusing on the next year's car, the first designed under Ross Brawn's stewardship of the team, the RA108 has slipped back through the ranks in recent weeks. Rubens Barrichello's rain-assisted Silverstone podium aside, points have been a struggle for both the Brazilian and team-mate Jenson Button, but both drivers were encouraged by the latest raft of developments as they head to a track where Honda has won on six occasions as an engine supplier.
Both Button and Barrichello have won in Hungary, the Brazilian with Ferrari in 2002 and Button two years ago in the only wet race in Hungaroring history, but acknowledge equally that a repeat will be tough this year.
"The Hungarian Grand Prix will always be a special race for me as the venue of my first win in Formula One, but, obviously, I would much prefer to be going back with the chance to challenge for the win again," the Briton admitted, "However, the new parts which we tested in Jerez last week are a small step forward, so it will be interesting to see how this places us in the midfield pack for the race weekend."
Various updates for the RA108 were evaluated at Jerez, which mimicked Budapest by providing stiflingly hot temperatures across the four days of the test. Temperatures have a big influence on car set-up at the Hungaroring, with cool conditions provoking understeer, and heat oversteer. Invariably, however, the weather has been hot during the race's 22-year history, so the Honda engineers will arrive at the track expecting oversteer and seeking ways of protecting the rear tyres during the race.
"The Hungaroring is a low speed and high downforce track where we will face similar challenges to Monaco, albeit with a different layout and corner speeds," team principal Brawn commented, "We frequently see high ambient temperatures during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend which, combined with a low average speed of 197kph, can make engine and brake cooling a challenge. The supersoft tyre is fastest here and it is important to maintain a balance to avoid graining and overheating. The track generates grip throughout the weekend, even during the race, therefore anticipating the best set-up for the conditions is key.
"The team completed a very well executed four-day test in Jerez last week, with an extensive programme of test items for the current season and looking ahead to the development of our 2009 car. In addition to running the final stage of our mid-season aerodynamic upgrade, we evaluated a new suspension system, brake and engine modifications and an evaluation of the 2009 slick tyres.
"The test went very well, with the full programme completed in punishingly hot conditions, therefore we are very satisfied. Our evaluation of the resulting data should have positive results for the performance of the RA108 in the forthcoming races - and for the direction of the 2009 car."