Earlier this year, I worriedly posed the question:
"Does/will the Honda RA108 suck?"
Off the back of group testing in the off season, the answer was seeming like an emphatic yes. Honda were making overtures of a new aero package to be tested privately in Jerez, but we received little information on the results and basically no pictures.
So, Australia arrived and Honda fans settled ourselves in to watch the RA108 at least make mincemeat of the Super Aguris in the achingly poor RA107B/SA08. But then something amazing happened.
Jenson went P11.
The Honda was on the midfield pace. Not just on it, just about leading it. We had been expecting to be behind the slowest midfielders.
For Honda fans, after last year, this was like winning the WDC and the WCC at once. We were sniffing points consistently this season and a decent qualifying saw RB go P11 and JB P13 (Later 10 and 12 after Glock was penalised. JB was on a P10 lap at the end of Q2, but a small mistake meant he was marginally slower than Rubens). Between them was, of all things, Fernando Alonso's Renault.
Although Jenson was eliminated at the start by Vettel, Rubens did well and could have taken P3 if not for an unfortunate series of events to do with the safety car.
But the result (DNF, DQ) doesn't matter. It's the pace. Honda is not slow. It's not even mediocre. It has some speed.
Racing speed, not qualifying speed like the BMW.
We're eying a double points finish in Malaysia. And if it rains, JB could well do P3.
Looks like this year will be way better than (The not bad) '03, but not as good as '05/'06. But after '07, it'll seem better than '06 and '04 put together. And it's a solid base for the Jenson Button/Ross Brawn Honda Racing F1 Three-Year title assault staring in '09.
Hamilton, watch your mirrors.