Having wound up right down towards the bottom of the timing sheets in both of Friday's free practice sessions at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Honda stars Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been left to perform a rain dance as their only realistic hope of scoring any points this weekend.
Neither driver has now troubled the scorers since Barrichello's inspired rostrum charge at Silverstone four races ago. In ending the first practice session sitting respectively 19th (Button) and 20th and the afternoon running a barely more encouraging 17th and 18th, the big-budget Japanese outfit seems set for another trying meeting around a circuit where in the past both drivers have finished up on the podium.
“Whilst it is great to be back at Spa, one of the most challenging and enjoyable circuits of the season, we did have a difficult time in free practice,” acknowledged Button, who took the chequered flag third for Honda in the 2005 edition of the race.
“It was very hard to get heat into the tyres in the cool and damp conditions, which meant that I had little front grip – and that is particularly difficult here given the cambers in the corners. We also struggled with understeer. However, we have a lot of data from the test last week and from our running in practice, so we will study this and see where we can improve before qualifying.
“All the drivers love coming to Spa, and for me it is one of the most beautiful circuits that we race on, with fantastically green and lush surroundings. For a driver, the circuit has one of those layouts which has everything and gives you a real buzz to drive, just like Suzuka and Silverstone.
“Eau Rouge is a legendary corner, and the feeling when you hit the bottom of the hill – the car touches the ground and you shoot straight back up again – is amazing. It's a crazy corner in the dry, and even more so in the wet.
“The weather can play a big part in the race weekend, which is great for us as the car goes well in the wet. It can be raining at one end of the lap but completely dry at the other, so you have to be ready and react quickly to whatever the weather throws at you.”
Barrichello echoed his team-mate's desire to see the intermittently inclement conditions return with a vengeance over the remainder of the weekend – hardly an improbability given Spa's location deep into Belgium's Ardennes forest. The 36-year-old acknowledged that 'the weather really helped us to get the best out of the car' during the British Grand Prix, when he ascended the podium for the first time in more than three years.
“I was happier with the balance of the car in the afternoon session,” the experienced Brazilian related, “however we struggled a lot with the rear end, which was very unpredictable throughout the day. The rain in the afternoon did not help as we lost some track time, but this was the same for everyone.