PARIS, July 2 (Reuters) - Struggling Honda are revamping their aerodynamics department in a determined effort to rejoin Formula One’s top teams in 2008 after a dismal season so far.
Team boss Nick Fry confirmed after the team scored their first point of the season in Sunday’s French Grand Prix that Loic Bigois, 46, would be joining from Williams as head of aerodynamics.
The start date has yet to be confirmed but Fry expected the Frenchman, previously a chief designer with now-defunct Ligier, Prost and Minardi, to arrive later in the year.
“Prior to Loic being announced we also hired another French guy, Francois Martinet, from Williams and we’ve hired John Owen from BMW and one of the young McLaren aerodynamicists,” he told Reuters.
“So it’s a concerted effort to improve our skills in that area because aerodynamics these days is 80 percent of the performance and we simply weren’t strong enough in that area,” he added.
Honda’s most recent race victory came last August when Jenson Button stood on top of the podium for the first time in Hungary.
The Briton scored more points than any driver from Budapest to the end of the 2006 season, finishing third in the final race in Brazil.
Honda have suffered a dramatic falling off this year, however, with Sunday’s eighth place at Magny-Cours earning Button his first appearance in the top 10 in eight races.
Fry paid tribute to the 27-year-old Briton, whose efforts have been eclipsed by the astonishing achievements of 22-year-old rookie compatriot and championship leader Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
“My admiration for Jenson goes up day by day, month by month,” he said.
“It’s relatively easy to be optimistic when you’ve got a good car and you’re doing well but Jenson really has matured in his professionalism and his fighting spirit.
“He’s tried every bit as hard for 12th place on the grid as he does for second or third,” he added.
“In all the years I’ve known Jenson, every year he is better than the year before. I really don’t see any reason why, if we give him the equipment, he can’t be competing with Lewis.”