Guest Author - Christine Blachford
Honda had a terrible year in 2007 and were hoping that this season would see them at least start to return to form, if not begin scoring regular points again. The team brought ex-Ferrari strategy genius Ross Brawn on board as team principal, hoping he could use his expertise to save their ailing fortunes.
Brawn's presence was felt immediately, although he wasn't in time to have too much of an impact on the car itself. That would probably explain why it was not a particularly good one. The surprising thing, though, is that it hasn't got any better throughout the year, and has arguably got worse. At the start of the year, you expected Honda to fall somewhere in the second session of qualifying. By the end of 2008, it would have been a major shock if they'd have managed to get out of Quali 1.
A big part of this is down to a decision to focus on the 2009 regulations. The difference between 2008 and 2009 is so huge that Honda made the switch quite early in the season, and therefore sacrificed some development on this year's car in order to get a step ahead for next season. This may explain some of the lack of progress, and will hopefully prove to be true when we start to see the real pace of the 2009 specifications.
One of the worrying things about Honda's lack of pace is the motivation of the drivers. Button has put a lot of faith in the team, as they have in him, and he is still waiting for a car that can repeat his 2006 win in Hungary. Barrichello came to the team with a lot of experience at Ferrari, and hasn't been given the chance to show it. The team are currently testing out some new drivers, with it looking likely that Barrichello may not last until 2009. This would be a questionable decision, because developing a car takes experience, and whilst some new youth and enthusiasm may bolster the atmosphere, would they be able to help with testing the new aero parts.
It's still a rocky road ahead for Honda and their drivers, but when a season has been as bad as the one they have just experienced, you must think that things can only go up from here.