Though his current situation may be a far cry from that when he achieved the maiden – and thus far only – victory of his Formula 1 career in the Hungarian Grand Prix two years ago, Jenson Button once again produced a superb performance to line up twelfth on the grid for Honda in Budapest this weekend.
The big-budget Japanese concern has fallen a long way from grace over the past two years, meaning merely escaping the opening phase of qualifying is an achievement in itself for both Button and fellow former Hungarian Grand Prix-winning team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
Not only did the 28-year-old accomplish that around the tight, twisty and technical Hungaroring, however, but he did so in fine style, finding a staggering eight tenths of a second on his final effort in Q2 to pip fellow Brit David Coulthard to a sixth row starting spot.
“I'm happy to have qualified in P12,” Button reflected afterwards, “after a good lap on the final run in Q2 pushed me a few places up the grid. We've definitely made some progress with the new developments to the car; in particular the new rear suspension is working well, and this has enabled us to improve the car step-by-step over the weekend.
“I got the most out of the car, and it's encouraging to see we were only three tenths away from the top ten as it has been a while since we were that close. I'm on the dirty side of the grid, which is a disadvantage, but I am sure we can have a good race from here nonetheless.”
Barrichello, for his part, was less happy with his eventual position of 18th, having had to abort his last flying lap in Q1 due to an error and ultimately missing the cut by just under three tenths of a second.
“Choosing which tyre to run was a really tough decision,” admitted the veteran Brazilian, “and it was a difficult qualifying session. I felt the super-soft option tyre was working slightly better with the car, so I stayed with that for my final run. After a good first sector, I went in too quick for turn eleven and made a mistake which ruined my lap.
“With that went the chance to progress to Q2, and the time from my previous run puts me in 18th place on the grid. The lap was going quite well, but the mistake meant I had to abort it. I have to settle for 18th place, and turn my focus now to the race.”
“P12 is where we had hoped to be,” summarised the Brackley-based outfit's head of race and test engineering Steve Clark, “so we have moved a little closer to the middle order again. The new mechanical developments have brought us improved stability, and that has enabled us to achieve a better balance on the car this weekend.