Button Aiming for First Podium

Briton Jenson Button believes the revamped BAR team can bring him a first podium finish this year and one day take him all the way to the Formula One title.

Button Aiming for First Podium

Briton Jenson Button believes the revamped BAR team can bring him a first podium finish this year and one day take him all the way to the Formula One title.

The 22-year-old, the youngest driver to score F1 points, did not expect to win races yet with the Honda-powered team but he said on Tuesday that a place in the top three was a realistic aim.

"I think it's a real possibility," he told reporters at the launch of BAR's new 005 car in Barcelona.

Button said he wanted to be World Champion within the next four years and "be the best driver in my era and win races and enjoy myself as well, which I am sure I am going to start doing this year."

Team boss David Richards, who took over a year ago and said at the 2002 launch that the team would aim for wins this season before trying to take the title in 2004, admitted that 2003 would be a challenging year. The team have yet to win a race after four seasons since they replaced now-defunct Tyrrell.

"But we have made a substantial step forward over the winter," said Richards. "I am confident that we will make significant progress towards our long term target of winning the World Championship. We will be qualifying regularly in the top 10. If we can achieve that then we will get podium places and score points on a regular basis."

Extraordinary Talent

"I'd like to see 2003 as the year that BAR finally came of age and challenged the establishment," said Richards. "With a much improved car Jacques Villeneuve will now be able to demonstrate his extraordinary talent whilst Jenson Button, with three seasons under his belt, is well-positioned to challenge the frontrunners."

Button is arriving at BAR after two seasons at Renault and a debut year at Williams in 2000. The team finished eighth overall last season with seven points and Villeneuve, the 1997 champion at Williams, faces a make-or-break year that could decide his future in Formula One.

"It will be my fifth year with the team and we haven't had a good year yet so it will be very important," said the Canadian, who was the central figure at the team until Button arrived. "I think we will be able to fight against everybody, except Ferrari.

"The only question mark will still be Ferrari. All they need is a slight improvement and they will still be ahead of everybody."

Ferrari won 15 of last year's 17 races. Japan's Takuma Sato has arrived from Jordan as test driver alongside Briton Anthony Davidson.

"Together with our third driver Takuma Sato I feel that BAR now has a driver line-up that is the match of any in Formula One," said Richards in a pre-launch statement.

Technical director Geoffrey Willis said the 005 was a big improvement on last year's car, sleeker and slimmer with lower sidepods and a completely new aerodynamic package.

"It's generally much neater, much tidier and substantially lighter," he said.

Button will be the first to test the car, on Wednesday, while Villeneuve will start next week.

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