Russell Atkins

Nick Fry maintains Honda was well on-track for a handful of points in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix - what would have been the underperforming Japanese manufacturer's first of the 2007 season - until their strategic coup was undone by the final safety car appearance.

Although Jenson Button failed even to get off the grid in Montreal following gear selection woes, team-mate Rubens Barrichello ran as high as third in the latter stages of the repeatedly disrupted race, and Fry is adamant the Brazilian was comfortably on course to take fifth place at the chequered flag, rather than the eventual twelfth spot the final safety car consigned him to.

"It was frustrating," the team principal told afterwards, "possibly even moreso for Jenson than for Rubens. This is the type of race in which you need to have two cars running, because with so many different variables that are out of your control it enables you to try different strategies. Jenson was on a one-stop strategy because of his grid position, and I think he would actually have done very well had the car not had its gear-engaging problem.

"With Rubens, we got ourselves into third place through some clever strategy, but with the benefit of hindsight it was the wrong decision to leave him out at the second-to-last safety car when he was lying third. If there hadn't been another safety car after that he would have finished fifth. He had the option tyres on and was going very quickly, but the second (Vitantonio) Liuzzi crashed we knew our day was over.

"Rubens wasn't overly happy with the car, saying it was suffering from understeer caused by rear graining, but I think most of the other drivers out there were in a similar position. After the final safety car there simply weren't enough laps left to make up the advantage we needed to make a last quick pit-stop. It was just unfortunate."

Fry admitted the dramatically unpredictable nature of the race had required the full attention of the team's strategists from beginning to end, though he stressed he was proud of their efforts and hopeful everyone's hard work may finally begin to pay off over the upcoming races.

"All the safety cars did keep us on our toes," he acknowledged, "but we have some very good people working on strategy. I look over their shoulders every now and again, but they are very good at their jobs. They were disappointed at the end of the day it hadn't worked out quite as well as we would have liked, but I think we were on top of it all.

"At Indy obviously we will have the same car, barring aerodynamic changes to suit the character of the circuit. I think we will be in a similar position again of scrapping to get into the top ten in qualifying - that's about where our car is at the moment on a good day, or just outside on a bad day. We have more changes to the car for France, however, and they are quite substantial. We just have to keep working away at it."



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