NOW THAT WAS A CAR
A controversy-dogged car that took too long to deliver on its promise
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…