The Formula One European season gets underway in Imola next weekend with the fourth round of the 2006 FIA World Championship. After the first three flyaway races, the F1 teams return to Europe and the drivers look forward to the challenge of the more traditional circuits on the F1 calendar.
Since returning from Australia, the Honda Racing F1 Team has completed two important tests at Vallelunga and Barcelona. Covering over 3500kms in six intensive days, the team put some new aerodynamic parts through their paces and worked on the tyre warm-up issues which compromised the race performance in Melbourne. As a result, the team is optimistic that it can start to realise more of the RA106’s qualifying speed in the race situation.
“The Imola circuit is a good one for the drivers. I really like the layout and the challenge of setting up the car which is not easy. Imola has had its ups and downs for me; I have had a lot of support from the fans there in the past but there are also some very sad memories. Our difficulties during the last race in Australia have made us work even harder in testing over the last couple of weeks and there is a good feeling that we have made some solid progress. The whole team feels positive about this weekend and I share those feelings so we’re hoping for a competitive race.”
“I’ve always really enjoyed racing in Imola. The track has a mixture of different types of corners and a few chicanes and is quite challenging for the drivers. There’s always a fun atmosphere and it’s a track where I have great memories. In 2004 I qualified in pole position here which was my first pole in F1 and finished the race in second place.
It’s good to be back in Europe following the first three races where we were able to achieve a podium position and some points. Obviously we were extremely disappointed with our performance in Australia, however we have made good progress in testing and I am confident we will be competitive in Imola. Hopefully it should be a good weekend for us.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
“Imola represents the start of the European season and the challenge of four races in just one month. Traditionally this is the weekend when many teams target the introduction of development upgrades to their cars, which can reshuffle the order of performance established at the first three flyaway races. With this in mind, we have not stood still since Australia and have evaluated many potential improvements to both the performance and reliability of the RA106 at our tests in Vallelunga and Barcelona. Our team has traditionally gone very well in Imola, so it all looks good for us to get our championship challenge back on track.”
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director – Honda Racing Development
“The countermeasure for Jenson’s engine problem in Melbourne worked to our satisfaction in Barcelona and we are introducing a more powerful spec for the start of the European season.”