BAR Honda driver Jenson Button reckons that the Brackley based team will be able to challenge the 'big three' next season, following the successful launch of the outfits 2004 'concept car' three weeks ago.

Speaking to his personal website the Englishman commented: "We've seen improvements in areas we've not even been working on. Compared to last year, it's a big step forward.

"We expect to be fighting with the top three teams. We wouldn't be saying it if we didn't expect it.

"I don't think that we have a chance of winning the title, but I think we can be challenging McLaren, Ferrari and Williams - and not just on occasions."

"I think a lot of people are going to be impressed with our step forward," added the Brit. "Fourth in the championship would be great for us, but we want to be third or better.

"We want to be consistent, we want to be reliable and be on the podium as much as possible. Everyone wants to be, but I think we do have the possibility."

"Sometimes this year we did struggle with reliability," continued Button. "We were probably one of the weakest teams in that area.

"We've been working on that a lot with the interim car, which has a new rear end, engine, gearbox and suspension, and it's run perfectly. We've done five days' testing and not had one problem. It's more reliable than the old car already.

"With the new regulations next season, you will only be able to use one engine for the whole race weekend, so the engine will have to do twice the distance. It's very unusual for a brand new F1 car to be so reliable, so now we've got that we can work on other areas."

Button will be partnered by Takuma Sato in 2004, after BAR decided not to renew Jacques Villeneuve's contract.

 

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