B•A•R HONDA'S Button races to sensational second place

May 23, 2004 Monaco

Lucky Strike B•A•R Honda's Jenson Button raced to a sensational second place in this afternoon’s Monaco Grand Prix, to claim the fourth podium finish of this season and his career. Takuma Sato made an awesome start but his race was over on lap three due to an engine failure.

The pack got away safely when the lights finally went out, the start having been delayed by 10 minutes due to Olivier Panis stalling the engine of his Toyota on the grid. B•A•R Honda's Takuma Sato was sensational, charging from seventh on the grid to fourth and tucking in behind team-mate Jenson Button. However, the Japanese driver's podium challenge was cruelly cut short when his engine failed on lap three.

Renault's Fernando Alonso snuck past B•A•R Honda's Jenson Button at the start, pushing the Briton back to P3. Thick smoke from Sato's engine failure caused Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella to collide with David Coulthard's McLaren, bringing out the safety car.

The race action restarted on lap eight and Button ran in third position until his first pit stop on lap 18, rejoining in fifth place behind Cristiano Da Matta, who was still to pit. When the Toyota driver pitted on lap 23 Button was on a charge to catch Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who was leading the race with a pit stop in hand.

The Renault duo of Trulli and Alonso were back in front after the first round of pit stops was completed on lap 25 with Schumacher third and Button fourth, seven seconds behind the German. By lap 36, with just 12 cars remaining in the race, the B•A•R Honda ace was the fastest man on track, having closed the gap to Schumacher to under three seconds.

Eight laps later the safety car was back on track as Alonso hit the barrier in the tunnel and crashed out of the race. Button took the opportunity to pit for the second and last time, as did race leader Trulli, reshuffling the order at the front of the pack behind the pace car to Schumacher, Trulli, Button.

Adding yet more excitement to the already dramatic race, lap 46 saw championship leader Michael Schumacher out of the race after he made contact with Montoya in the tunnel, while still running under the safety car. Now in second place and on course for the fourth podium of his career, Button suffered hugely from backmarkers as there was no sign of the blue flags needed to let him past. The traffic increased the gap between himself and race leader Trulli to almost seven seconds with 26 laps remaining.

With the backmarkers out of the way by lap 62, Honda-powered Button got back into the groove and enjoyed outstanding pace to reel in Trulli to within 2.2 seconds with just nine laps to go. The fans lining the streets of the principality were treated to a breath-taking climax as the Italian was held up by traffic and the young Briton closed the gap to just over a second by lap 72. Button continued to battle hard but as it is virtually impossible to overtake around the streets of Monte Carlo, he crossed the line in second place, having dissolved the gap to race winner Trulli to just 0.4 seconds.