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article details
Author floundericiousMI
Categories Honda F1, News, Race Reports, BAR Specific, Motorsports
Create Date March 05, 2003 10:38
Last Update March 17, 2003 15:40
Australian GP - 2002 recap

Australia 2002 - BAR 004 on track

The Scene: Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia
The Date: March 3rd, 2002



BAR-Honda dragged into Albert Park in 2002 as a team on the ropes. They'd gone through the dismissal and replacement of their longtime team principal, Craig Pollock. In his place stood Dave Richards, owner/operator extraordinaire of Prodrive. Also joining the team for the first time at the Australian GP was Geoffrey Willis. Having been on "gardening leave" from Williams F1 for several months, he was undoubtedly very keen to begin his personal assessment of the BAR squad.

The drivers for 2002 were unchanged from the marginally successful 2001 season. The 1997 world's champion, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, lined up alongside Frenchman Olivier Panis, the winner of the 1996 Monaco GP. The car was new, the engine was new, the leaders were new, and it was the dawn of a long, hard season.

The hopes had been soaring about the RA002E engine...however, during pre-season reviews and testing, a never-revealed flaw of some kind was found in the engine valvetrain. This flaw led to the use of an interim engine for the Australian GP. While powerful enough to warrant use in a grand prix, it was by no means a class-leader in terms of output or weight.

By the same token, the BAR 004 had high hopes pinned on its design. Heralded as a major step forward from BAR's design staff, serious problems began to show themselves in the car's handling and aerodynamics. The 004 was over weight, under stiff, unreliable, and as aerodynamically efficient as a billboard. To paraphrase Geoff Willis' assessment of the 004: "It sucked."

When Albert Park 2002 rolled around, these fears began to manifest themselves. Through tremendous effort, BAR was able to secure decent starting grid places (12th/13th). It all seemed to be for nought, though, as the race start brought about a massive collision caused by poor driver judgement. Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello managed to collide, with Ralf going airborne and the two of them coming to a halt in a heap of broken Williams/Ferrari. This caused a massive chain reaction in the pack that was following, as cars swerved into one another and onto the grass. As a result, half the field was out of the race at the first turn. The race stewards did NOT restart the race, however. Ultimately this was a wise decision, but a controversial one nevertheless. Honda drivers Olivier Panis and Giancarlo Fisichella were caught in the madness and forced to retire. Later, on Lap 15, Takuma Sato retired with a car failure. Honda's hopes were totally spent on lap 30 when Jacques Villeneuve hit the wall with his BAR...the result of a rear-wing failure (the thing broke off of the car and sent Jacques spinning at speed!). Overall, it had been a decent showing for the race teams/pit crews, but the result itself boded ominously for the remainder of the season.

Racing car performance is a three legged stool: Team, Car, and Driver. Take away any one of those "legs" and the whole shamoozle falls apart. Last year, the strengths of BAR were its drivers, its race team, and its heart. The weaknesses were inexperience and poor direction in the engineering/design group, a flawed car/engine/tire package, and lack of unity due to the massive restructuring taking place.

BAR and Honda both had an EXTREMELY difficult year, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth...within AND without the team. However, signs of progress began to manifest themselves later in the championship and hopes for the future grew throughout the season.

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