Honda enjoyed considerably its most competitive showing of the 2007 season so far in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, with both drivers making it into the top ten for the first time since last year.

Indeed, the result - ninth place for Rubens Barrichello and tenth for Jenson Button - marked the first time either Honda car had made the final qualifying shoot-out in the opening five races of the new campaign. The duo were evenly-matched throughout the session, setting the eighth and ninth-fastest times respectively in Q1, with Button only missing out on automatic promotion to Q3 by a scant three thousandths of a second. The Briton was given a reprieve, however, by David Coulthard's penalty for a blocking incident with Heikki Kovalainen.

"I would like to say a big thank you to the whole team today," Barrichello beamed afterwards. "We did a fantastic job to make it through to the final session. Little by little we are improving and although we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do, we are encouraged.

"I know we will get back to where we belong. I'm very excited for tomorrow. This is always a great race but starting P9 really gives us a shot at the points."

Button was similarly enthusiastic about Honda's chances come the race, and aware of the need for a strong result given the Brackley-based Japanese squad's torrid start to the season.

"It's great that we made it through to the third session today," he enthused. "It's definitely a step in the right direction. My radio wasn't working properly and was crackling the whole time so in the end I had to unplug it completely, which was far from ideal because we had to be 'on it' the whole time during qualifying.

"Monaco places a premium on qualifying position, so what we have achieved today is great. The team did a good job and we can do well tomorrow so I'm really looking forward to it."

Engineering Director Jacky Eeckelaert was encouraged by the outfit's progress to get both cars so high up the grid, and hopeful that pace would be reflected in points-paying positions on Sunday to open Honda's account in 2007.

"It was our best qualifying session of the year," the Belgian underlined, "and we are very pleased to see both drivers in the top ten, particularly here in Monaco where a good grid position can have such an impact on the race.

"Both drivers got all of the performance possible out of the car today with some excellent driving, and credit is also due to the team for the job they did running the cars. This morning the free practice session was affected by some rain just before and during the session, but thankfully qualifying remained dry and we can now look forward to a stronger race tomorrow."



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