The 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship opens this weekend as the team's return to the grid for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix over four months ago. Australia resumes its traditional slot on the calendar as the season opener...
The 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship opens this weekend as the team's return to the grid for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix over four months ago. Australia resumes its traditional slot on the calendar as the season opener with the picturesque Albert Park, situated in the heart of Victoria's capital, playing host.
AT&T Williams will debut the FW29, piloted by the incumbent Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz, who returns to racing having been promoted over the winter. Newly appointed test driver, Kazuki Nakajima, will get his first taste of a Grand Prix weekend in Australia as he assists with Friday's set-up work in the free practice sessions.
Rigorously developed by a fortified design and engineering team over the winter, the Williams-Toyota FW29 is a comprehensive progression on last year's FW28 and will benefit from the Toyota RVX-07 engine following the team's new relationship with the Japanese manufacturer.
The existing partnership with Bridgestone in the supply of their Potenza rubber also stands the team in good stead as the sport switches to a sole tyre supplier. Since its launch at the beginning of February, the 2007 car has recorded just under 8,000kms in testing kilometres over 12 days.
The new car will bear the team's revised livery in Melbourne, one which highlights a robust sponsor community augmented by the arrival of title partner, AT&T, as well as by a significant new partnership with Lenovo and upgrades of four existing sponsors, including Philips.
"It's great that the first race of the year is back in Melbourne again, it always makes for a good start to the season. The crowd is fabulous and so is the atmosphere. As a team, we are determined to move forward this year and bring some consistency to our season so we are hoping and pushing hard for a good start in Australia."
"Australia's a great country and I would like to be able to see more of it. I stopped over for a couple of days in Sydney on the way to Melbourne for a couple of sponsor commitments for RBS and Lenovo. Sydney is a great city and I'm definitely going to spend some more time there the next time I'm here."
"As a temporary street circuit, Albert Park is in many ways a challenging track. It is bumpy and has plenty of curbs so you have to drive very precisely. It has a stop-go nature about it and often delivers unexpected results."
"Melbourne is certainly one of my favourite places on the calendar because the atmosphere is so special, particularly as it's the season opener. The track is right in the heart of the city, a city which is so active and full of positive energy. Every team comes here with the highest of hopes -- the first race is always exiting because everyone will soon know where they really stand."
"Albert Park is well laid out and is right in the middle of a park in the centre of Melbourne, that fact alone makes it a nice track. The circuit is a mix of a "real" track with a slight street character. There aren't any really challenging parts, but that doesn't mean the lap is easy. To find a good balance, and to be able to follow the constantly changing track conditions, is in fact quite hard."
"As a driver, it is of course hugely important to find a good rhythm and not be kicked off the circuit by one of its bumps. Overtaking is not that easy, which I guess is normal nowadays with 22 top class drivers on the track."
Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams F1:
"The great thing about the first race is the anticipation of what the running order will be among the teams and this year it is harder to predict than ever. Two significant changes have really levelled the playing field -- the single tyre supplier means that all teams will be running on Bridgestone Potenzas and the homologated and rev-limited engines means that all the teams will be revving to 19,000rpm. From winter testing, the new rules look like they have had their desired effect and tightened up the grid, that makes it harder for the engineers, but it's good for Formula One."
"Melbourne is a street circuit with low grip levels as it is normally used by road traffic that leaves contaminants on the track surface. This means that the grip level increases dramatically over the weekend as the Bridgestone Potenza rubber is laid down by the Formula One cars. The circuit is dominated by slow and medium speed corners, with a couple of high speed changes of direction."
"Brake cooling is important around Albert Park, but it's not the harshest circuit in terms of brake energy input. Pitstop strategy will be interesting this year taking into account the different tyres, the revised pitlane speed limit and the new tyre rule that means both specifications of Bridgestone Potenza tyres must be used."
"Winter testing is complete and we've covered over 18,000kms of track testing with the Toyota engine and the new gearbox. With Melbourne's famously variable weather, we are looking forward to the race!"