Jenson Button made a solid start to his home Grand Prix when he posted the ninth fastest lap in today's first qualifying session. Team-mate Jacques Villeneuve ended the day in 13th position, but both should be in the top ten tomorrow reckon the team.

Button and Villeneuve left the garage 11th and 13th in line for their single-lap qualifying runs, the weather remaining cool and cloudy with a few drops of rain starting to fall during the latter part of the hour-long session. Both drivers confirmed the benefit of the new aerodynamic and Honda engine developments which were introduced for the first time in this morning's free practice session

"The run wasn't too bad," Jenson said afterwards. "It started to drizzle with rain a little which has given the circuit more grip strangely, but there's a lot more grip than we had this morning. It wasn't a perfect lap; I don't think I got the best out of it but we have definitely made a step forward with the car from the last race. The new bodywork has made quite a big difference but we are a little further behind than we wanted to be, so we have just got to hope that we can make progress for tomorrow. We still have quite a bit of work to do on set-up."

Jacques Villeneuve was unlucky in the slippery conditions to line-up with the thirteenth fastest time in the session. "The car was good for the first half of the lap but by the last two corners the front tyres were gone," explained Jacques. "It didn't seem slippery out there but it was a little bit difficult as you get to turn one and don't know how much grip there is. Today was the day to try things on the car - Jenson took a different tyre and it looks like that choice is better, so I will go with that choice tomorrow. We have made improvements to the car for this race and we have certainly taken a step forward. We already know what we have to do tomorrow to improve the set-up."

Team boss David Richards was relieved of a day unhindered by the Gendarmes. "We've had a constructive day with both drivers getting their full quota of track time," he explained. "More importantly the improvements that Honda and ourselves have made to the car have translated into real performance on the track. This has given us renewed momentum and I am confident that, with more fine-tuning, we will have a competitive weekend."

Geoffrey Willis, technical director for the team is happy with the progress: "Our new aerodynamic upgrade package and Honda engine evolution are working well at this track and we appear to have closed up the gap to Ferrari. In this morning's session we focused on car set-up and tyre comparison. Weather conditions this afternoon were a little variable with the rain always threatening to upset the qualifying times but both drivers were unaffected and were generally happy with their car balance."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director of Honda Racing Development reckons it all bodes well for tomorrow: "We will be able to improve the driveability of the engine overnight as well as make some changes to the car, so our target is for both drivers to qualify inside the top ten tomorrow."