Preview: BAR Out to Win their 100th Race

BAR, fighting Renault for second place in the Championship, would like nothing better than to celebrate their 100th Formula One Grand Prix with a first victory on Sunday.

Preview: BAR Out to Win their 100th Race

BAR, fighting Renault for second place in the Championship, would like nothing better than to celebrate their 100th Formula One Grand Prix with a first victory on Sunday.

With mission long accomplished for World Champion Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, the battle to be runners-up will come into sharp focus in Japan - a home race for BAR's engine partners Honda.

Jenson Button finished second behind Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello at last month's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix - his fourth second place finish of 2004 - and the Briton believes he can go one better at Suzuka.

"We've been close on a few occasions," he said after Shanghai. "It has been a good year all round and there's a possibility in the last two races that we can win."

Japanese teammate Takuma Sato roared home in sixth after starting from the back of the grid due to an engine blowout in practice. Schumacher, who clinched his seventh world title in August, has appeared almost human in his last three races after winning 12 of the first 13 in a record-breaking season.

The German has won five times in Japan and could be stung into producing something special this weekend after slumping to 12th, the lowest finish of his career, in Shanghai. BAR have 105 points with Renault on 96 with just Brazil remaining after Japan.

Podium Finish

"It will be a big day for me," said Sato, confirmed as one of BAR's drivers for 2005. "It's very tight between us and Renault so we can't afford any slip-ups. I want a podium finish."

Sato, sixth last year as a late replacement for former champion Jacques Villeneuve, was third at the US Grand Prix in June. His first podium matched Aguri Suzuki's at Suzuka 14 years ago. No Japanese has done better.

Button, his future still uncertain as BAR and Williams wait for a ruling on his contract, is also fired up.

"We know we can be fast at Suzuka," said Button. "We finished fourth and sixth last year and I'm expecting a lot from the race."

Renault will be hoping Spaniard Fernando Alonso can improve on his fourth place in China and that Villeneuve - hired for the last three races of the season - finishes in the points.

The Canadian, who won the 1997 world title for Williams, could only finish 11th in Shanghai in his first start since he stormed out on BAR before last year's Japanese Grand Prix.

It will be out with the old and in with the new for Toyota, who will mark their 50th race by giving Italian Jarno Trulli his first start since his acrimonious split from Renault.

Toyota's Olivier Panis, Formula One's oldest driver at 38, will drive his final race in Suzuka - just as it was for fellow Frenchman Jean Alesi in 2001.

Ralf Schumacher, who suffered spinal fractures in a crash in Indianapolis, looked good in his return at Shanghai until he retired after his Williams was bumped by McLaren's David Coulthard.

However, big brother will be lurking as usual.

"I'd like to have less turmoil and more success in the last two races," said Michael. "I've experienced a lot at Suzuka - good and bad. Driving there is always special."

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