Anthony Davidson has got back behind the wheel of a Formula One car – albeit in a one-day testing role – just weeks after the demise of his Super Aguri team cost him his race drive.
He has been out for Honda, with which he has had an association going back to 2001, during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona over the last few days.
He was recruited because Alex Wurz, the regular Honda test driver, was off competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. He was a member of the Peugeot team with the fastest car – but also, unfortunately, with mechanical problems which pushed them into fifth.
And Jenson Button was unavailable because he was busy competing in the Nokia Royal Windsor Triathlon as part of his ongoing fitness training – see our full story here.
Honda reportedly said that Davidson was “the natural choice” for the seat. And Steve Clark, the team’s head of race and test engineering, gave a glowing report on his performance: “It was a great help to have a driver of the experience and calibre of Anthony available to step in and assist us with the programme.”
But once Wurz returns from endurance racing (and Button from endurance sport in general) there appears to be little chance of Davidson staying on in a regular role.
The team set out to work on the set-up and balance of the RA108 “to address some of the issues that we have identified at recent Grands Prix.”
It said it had also introduced some suspension components which it hoped would open up the possibility of further improvements to the car for future races.
On the first day of testing Honda was one of eight teams running nine cars on the circuit. Luca Badoer for Ferrari was able to put in a fastest lap of 1:22.412 while Davidson was in sixth place some eight tenths of a second behind him.
On day two race driver Rubens Barrichello took over, notching up a fastest time of 1:21.950, nearly a full second behind the fastest-placed Ferrari. He spent the session concentrating on preparations for the upcoming French Grand Prix, focusing on aero evaluation and chassis setup.
On day three Barrichello was again in the car with a fastest lap of 1:21.672, nearly 1.6 seconds behind the fastest lap of Renault’s Nelson A Piquet, the driver topping the timesheet.
Following the test, the team said: “Anthony began his running on Thursday with several laps to acclimatise himself to the RA108.
“Once comfortable with the car, he spent the remainder of the day working on an aero programme alongside general car set-up work as the team began the on-track preparations for Magny Cours.
“Anthony had completed 81 laps when a heavy thunderstorm brought the day’s running to a slightly early conclusion.”
Davidson added: “It was good to be back on track this week after such a long absence. We had a positive day of testing which allowed us to achieve some interesting work with the aero and mechanical evaluations ahead of the French Grand Prix.
“I am pleased to have to been to contribute to the test programme and help the team this week whilst Alex has been competing at Le Mans.”