Austrian GP: BAR preview

The Team Team Principal David Richards described a feeling of 'deja vu' after the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago. As in Imola, Jacques Villeneuve's 7th place finish was scant reward for a hard-fought race and a committed team performance. A ...

Austrian GP: BAR preview

The Team

Team Principal David Richards described a feeling of 'deja vu' after the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago. As in Imola, Jacques Villeneuve's 7th place finish was scant reward for a hard-fought race and a committed team performance. A points finish continues to prove elusive for Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda but Olivier Panis would happily settle for a 'finish' right now after enduring his 5th DNF in as many races because of technical problems.

It was a weekend of highs and lows for the team; a positive start in free practice, a disappointing qualifying session on Saturday with a competitive race trim finally emerging in Sunday's warm-up. The drivers carried real momentum into the race and both looked capable of securing the team's first points of the season. Shades of a balance deficiency on Jacques' car remained with him throughout while Olivier's performance spoke volumes about his determination to finish this race. A gutsy drive was cemented by one of the team's now celebrated pitstops, delivering him back on track ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Unfortunately his exhaust failed after 43 laps while he was in contention for a possible 5th place finish.

Disappointment aside, the team were encouraged by a further step forward with the engine and have been working hard with Honda in testing to consolidate that progress for Austria. A three-day programme took Jacques, Olivier and test driver Anthony Davidson to Estoril last week for the team's first full test at the Portuguese circuit. The main focus there was general set-up work in readiness for the demands of the A1-Ring, coupled with further engine development and tyre work.

The three drivers each completed two days of testing, Olivier posting a new unofficial lap record of 1:17.090. Heavy rainfall on the last day also gave the team and Bridgestone the opportunity to run some wet weather tyre testing to prepare for any eventuality in the unpredictable Styrian Alps.

Looking ahead to the Austrian Grand Prix, the team expect to be slightly better off than in Spain but admit there is still much work to be done. Reliability is improving with every race so the main priority will be to get both drivers to the chequered flag, taking advantage of every possible opportunity along the way.

David Richards, Team Principal

We have come very close to a points finish in the last couple of races but we have not been in a strong enough position to capitalise on every opportunity. Having said that, I am very pleased with the improvement in our overall performance and I have only praise for the team and our partners. We still have a great deal of work ahead of us but together we are starting to make real progress."

Jacques Villeneuve on the Austrian Grand Prix

"The A1-Ring is a fun track to drive on; I quite enjoy racing there. It's not a very exciting track for qualifying because there are no real high-speed corners, but it's a great circuit for racing. The layout of the track is really good and it has a nice rhythm. There are plenty of overtaking opportunities which always make for exciting racing. Overall, it is very enjoyable."

"Our car should be more suited to this track as well. We still have a lot of work to do before we can become more competitive but hopefully we are in a position to get some points."

Olivier Panis on the Austrian Grand Prix

"We missed a big opportunity in Barcelona. For the first time this season I felt very comfortable with the car there and that was certainly reflected in my times throughout the weekend. I really felt that I would finish the race and it also looked possible for me to score a point along the way.

"To be honest, the disappointment of the last few races has made me more determined. We are working much better as a team and the improvements are coming. The A1-Ring is a track I enjoy and I finished 5th here last year. It's quite tough on the driver though because of the big G-forces in the corners. Getting the right balance is also tricky but we made real progress with that in Spain and in testing so I'm looking forward to the race and feeling positive."

The Circuit

The Austrian Grand Prix reappeared in 1997 after an absence of a decade and is held at the A1-Ring, an updated version of the much-admired, ultra-fast Osterreichring. The current track, situated near Spielberg in the scenic Styrian Alps, possesses a number of slow and medium-speed corners, bordered by large gravel run-off areas. However, it is still the fourth fastest circuit on the current GP calendar and has produced its fair share of drama over the last five years - the start of the race is usually high on chaos as the cars funnel through the first turn, Castrol Kurve.

Race engineers grade the A1-Ring a medium downforce track. The layout of the circuit means that the cars constantly brake from high speeds into the corners and accelerate hard on exit, making the A-1 Ring notoriously heavy on fuel and tough on brakes. Additionally, driver fitness is tested to the limit by the two 4G corners at the lap end. Finally, chassis balance at the A1-Ring is key and known to be more dependent on track temperature and other ambient conditions than at other circuits, while slightly thinner air in the Alps means engines are likely to require a 'mapping' adjustment.

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