David Richards

The Hungarian GP was a tough one for all at BAR as the team tried to act like normal just a week after Jenson Button's intended departure for Williams was announced. The team may have logged more points, but overall it was a difficult weekend that everyone had to endure. Adam Cooper talked to team principal David Richards

David Richards

Despite all the upheaval BAR seemed to have maintained its form on the track at the Hungaroring when Takuma Sato and Jenson Button qualified third and fourth. The fact that the gap between them was 0.007s was somehow indicative of the intrigue that was going on behind the scenes, but outwardly everything seemed to be under control. The team was shaken, but not stirred.

Unfortunately for all concerned, race day was a disappointment. From their promising grid positions the drivers worked their way backwards on the first lap, and were never able to recover. They finished fifth and sixth, with Jenson just staying unlapped.

"That was a very disappointing first lap, you're quite right," admitted Richards. "It's an area we've got to work on. Clearly Renault have got a massive start on everybody in that particular area, they've done a very good job. Then we didn't get the best of the tyres. When they were older they were a lot better, and putting a newer set of tyres on, we had a few issues with that."

The result meant that Jenson finally lost any mathematical possibility he had of winning the title. Not that anyone ever really thought he had much chance, unless Ferrari chose to miss the last third of the season, but nevertheless it was unfortunate timing.

"I'm not worried about it!" laughs Richards. "It's not something we anticipated. If I'd suggested to you that if Jenson would be in the top three of the championship, you would have mocked me, wouldn't you? We're third now, only eight points behind Renault, and Jenson's well clear in third in the drivers' championship. So overall we have to be satisfied - not happy but satisfied."

Richards says Ferrari's ongoing success merely serves as an example: "They deserve it. They're an amazing team of people, great professionals, and we just have to learn from that and try to improve."

All at BAR put on a brave face through the Hungarian weekend, but clearly there was much going on behind closed doors. The guys in the team certainly felt let down by Button, but they did their best to hide their thoughts when it mattered. After all, while there's still a chance of keeping him, there's no point in allowing things to get too messy. Richards said he was pleased with the way everyone reacted.

"If I look round the team, everybody got on with the job superbly," he says. "I couldn't have asked for me from, every single member of the team. I know how they felt about the situation. I know what the emotion is underlying everything. But they are very, very professional. We have to compliment them, because they have behaved impeccably.

"These things are always hard to measure. Emotional issues are the most tricky things to get a sense of, and that's why I work so hard at actually building an environment in which people feel comfortable, that people want to be a part of, and they're happy in. I think the Hungary weekend shows what a professional organisation this team is now, and how they can overcome issues like this and take them in their stride."

In the meantime Richards and his team just have to wait. While he admitted that Jacques Villeneuve was on the list of possible replacements, Richards was adamant that as far as he was concerned there wasn't much to say about other drivers until the situation was resolved. As far as he is concerned there remains a very good chance that Button wouldn't be going anywhere.

"We go to the contract board now, and we wait for an answer from that," he says. "I don't expect an answer before Spa - it'll be between Spa and Monza."

So how frustrating is that delay going to be?

"It's disappointing. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it - it'll be resolved then."

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