by Chris Hayes

Jenson Button has admitted that Honda will hard-pressed to score points at next week's Bahrain Grand Prix despite an impressive showing from the Honda RA108 in the opening races of the 2008 season.

The Anglo-Japanese have put the misery of 2007 behind them with some solid performances this year that consolidate their position in the mid-field.

In Melbourne, Jenson Button watched his team-mate Rubens Barrichello put in an inspired charge to sixth place - which was later taken away from the Brazilian following a pit-lane infringement - and in Malaysia a week ago the British hero led a sterling assault on qualifying, just missing out on the prestigious top-ten shoot out, before winding up tenth in the race.

However, Button does not yet believe Honda are ready to challenge for points on merit alone despite the good form so far.

"Our overall position in the midfield pack is encouraging," acknowledged the 28-year-old, "however we have to make a further step to be competing for points on a regular basis.

"With no opportunity for testing since the season began, we will be using the data gathered in Australia and Malaysia to maximise our performance at what will be another very hot race in Bahrain."

But the British ace remains optimistic about hustling the front-runners in Bahrain desert next week.

"I'm hopeful that we will be knocking on the door of the top ten in qualifying once again."

Honda's technical director, Ross Brawn, the man many have tipped as the architect behind Honda's turnaround despite having only spent a few months with the team, concurred that to score points Honda would need to deliver something special.

"The first two races have established that the RA108 is capable of competing strongly in the midfield pack and is close to breaking into the top ten runners," the 53-year-old said.

But he added: "To score points however, we need to over-achieve on our current level of performance.

"Whilst we will aim for this in Bahrain, the European season when our next developments arrive, is a more realistic target."

The ex-Ferrari guru is nonetheless adamant that the team will take a step forward in coming races given their form in Malaysia a week ago.

"Following our encouraging start to the season, the spirit in the team is very good and we are all confident that we continue to make progress over the next few weeks.

"The race in Malaysia last weekend showed that the Honda team continues to make steady improvements on our pre-season form.

"I was particularly pleased to see both cars finish the race reliably and encouraged by the performance of the car and our drivers in achieving the maximum possible from the weekend.

"The race gave us a very accurate reflection of the RA108's position relative to its competitors and provided valuable data with which to continue the development of the car ahead of the European season."

Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello, echoed Brawn's satisfaction at the way the Honda RA108 has performed so far.

"The first two races of the season have been very encouraging for the team and I have been pleased with how the car has performed, particularly that I have completed both races in the very tough conditions," said F1's most experienced driver.

"Malaysia was a challenge for me after losing the practice running on Saturday, compromising my race set-up, but overall the RA108 has proven to be competitive and shown good race performance."

 

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