A con­tro­versy-dogged car that took too long to de­liver on its prom­ise

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS -

Con­tro­versy cul­mi­nated in dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the BAR 007

Bri­tish Amer­i­can Rac­ing spent much of their ex­is­tence in some form of tur­moil, be it lock­ing horns with the FIA over their liv­ery (as in their launch sea­son, 1999), un­der­go­ing a re­brand­ing (ru­mours swept the pad­dock in 2002, fol­low­ing the ar­rival of David Richards as team prin­ci­pal, that they were go­ing to change their name to “some­thing un­usual” – it turned out to be ‘BAR’), or reshuf­fling their man­age­ment. But 2005, their fi­nal sea­son be­fore be­ing bought out­right by Honda, would prove to be the most event­ful of all.

Great things were ex­pected of the BAR 007, be­cause the 006 had proved com­pet­i­tive and taken the team to sec­ond in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship. Off track, 2004 was the usual soap opera – BAR and Wil­liams fought a run­ning bat­tle over Jen­son But­ton’s con­tract, and Richards and his Pro­drive company left as Honda bought a 45 per cent in­ter­est in the team. But the on-track ver­dict was that the 006 was a de­cent car al­lied to one of the most pow­er­ful en­gines in F1.

As a rad­i­cally lighter evo­lu­tion of the 006, mod­i­fied to suit 2005’s new aero­dy­namic and sport­ing regs, the 007 had good prospects. Honda pro­duced a new V10, since en­gines now had to last for two races, and acous­tic anal­y­sis con­ducted by a ri­val sug­gested it was bang on the money for power. But the open­ing races were dis­as­trous.

It be­came clear that the 007 had ma­jor aero­dy­namic in­sta­bil­ity as a re­sult of the de­sign­ers be­ing too ag­gres­sive with the ‘spoon’ sec­tion of the front wing be­neath the nose. And it was too kind to its tyres – fine in a sea­son in which mid-race tyre changes were banned, but it meant driv­ers strug­gled to gen­er­ate tem­per­a­ture for a fly­ing lap in qual­i­fy­ing. This was mag­ni­fied by the qual­i­fy­ing sys­tem, by which grid spots were de­ter­mined on an ag­gre­gate of two one-lap runs.

There were prob­lems in the en­gine room, too – both cars were in­structed to pull out on the fi­nal lap of the Aus­tralian GP, so as to cir­cum­vent the en­gine-change rules. The FIA in­stantly closed this loop­hole and fit­ting fresh en­gines for the fol­low­ing race, in Malaysia, availed the team of noth­ing – both cars blew up within three laps.

Then, at Imola, BAR were dis­qual­i­fied when their cars were found to have sec­ondary blad­ders in their fuel tanks. The FIA, be­liev­ing this to be a ruse to run the cars 10-12kg un­der­weight and then bal­last them back up to the min­i­mum weight at the fi­nal fuel stops, pur­sued the team re­lent­lessly. BAR were banned for the next two races.

Aero­dy­namic changes and re­li­a­bil­ity im­prove­ments yielded a dra­matic change in for­tunes for the sec­ond half of the sea­son as But­ton claimed a string of points fin­ishes and two podi­ums. Team­mate Takuma Sato was shown the door after a less suc­cess­ful run.

Honda took 100 per cent own­er­ship at the end of 2005 – just in time to catch a wave of flak from home after sack­ing Sato. No mat­ter whose name was above the door, there was al­ways drama here…

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