David Richards

For BAR team boss David Richards the first half of the 2004 season has worked out pretty well - third place in the championship and more points than Williams and McLaren combined represents a pretty good record. Between them Jenson Button and Takuma Sato have been on the podium seven times in nine races. Who could have predicted that? Not even Richards himself, as he admitted to Adam Cooper

It's been a pretty amazing start by any standards. Pre-season testing looked good, but there were times when Tyrrell-Yamahas and Prost-Ferraris appeared to be winning the winter championship, only for a reality to set in come the first race. But Richards concedes that no one in the team expected to be logging podiums on such a regular basis.

"I think that's probably right," he says. "We also never factored in the state of some of the other teams. But you take what's given to you, and don't look a gift horse in the mouth! We're in a period of time that we have to capitalise on."

Most of the points have of course been scored by Button. Sato has shown great promise, but five engine failures didn't do him any favours. Everything finally came together with his third place in Indy.

That came after the Japanese driver had been involved in a series of unfortunate scrapes. The tangle with Rubens Barrichello at the 'Ring was regarded as just about acceptable, but a spin in qualifying in Montreal, followed by a scrappy race, didn't go down very well. Nor did a silly collision with Felipe Massa in practice in America. However, his first podium must surely take a lot of pressure off him.

"I think it does actually," Richards agrees. "Obviously we have a few incidents with Sato over the last few races, and there was an incident on Friday. He's like many young people who try very hard and don't realise the extent of their talent and the equipment they've got to use. Just by slowing down a little bit and taking the edge of things they can even better, and I think it's proven to him his abilities now. I'm sure that will be a great milestone for him."

Richards has gone out of his way to defend Taku this year, but even he had grown a little frustrated by the Indy race day. So did he give the youngster a talking to?

"We did. We talked to him a lot. But you talk by supporting, you don't talk by condemning. You do it by coaching and helping and giving him the right level of support. And he's responded. He's a very intelligent young man, and he responds very, very well.

"I talked to him late on Friday night. We had half an hour together. We talked about all the issues. We went right back to the beginning of the season and talked about many of the things that had happened, and tried to give a reason and rationale for everything.

"I think the extent of how he responded to that was how slowly he drove past Ralf's accident. He drove round the course very sensibly and very slowly and drove past the accident in a very cautious and controlled way."

In fact that caution allowed Michael Schumacher to pit and still keep the lead, and in effect compromised BAR's race in a big way.

"Yes, but I could never complain or condemn him for that, because that was the right sporting thing to do, and the correct thing to do."

Had the team adopted a more aggressive pit strategy and pitted under the safety car they might have earned a better result, but Richards refuses to speculate.

"Never look back and claim you could have done something better at the end of the day. It just didn't work that way, and that's a fact of life. We're just making a series of small steps in the right direction. At Indy Jenson had the first chassis related failure all year. We assume that under the safety car something went wrong and the temperature went up in the gearbox. It wasn't safe to carry on."

Will BAR score another 58 points in the last nine races? McLaren has a new car, Williams is making steps, and everyone else will be pressing on. Even DR admits that it won't get any easier.

"Inevitably. You'd be very foolish to dismiss Williams or McLaren. Renault have had two bad races now. We've had good fortune so far, so you just press on."

Previous article Schuey fears F1 fatality
Next article Friday First Free Practice - French GP