Synopsis The AT&T Williams team returned from the penultimate round of this year's Championship without points despite fielding a competitive car. Unfortunately race performance was compromised by the first mechanical failure of the season when...
The AT&T Williams team returned from the penultimate round of this year's Championship without points despite fielding a competitive car. Unfortunately race performance was compromised by the first mechanical failure of the season when the gearbox in Nico Rosberg's FW31 failed; the gearbox, which was on its fourth race, has proven to be dependable technology and the team are confident that following a full strip and analysis in the factory tonight that the solution will be straightforward; nevertheless, for a second race in a row, the team has been unable to capitalise on a strong points potential. Nico's team-mate, Kazuki Nakajima suffered a collision on lap 30, not quite reaching the halfway point in the race. However, despite not scoring any points, AT&T Williams retain 6th place in the Constructors' Championship.
The team started Friday's practice sessions with standard preparatory work covering the usual set-up work, systems checks, tyre comparisons and race simulations while also evaluating some new aero parts including another new front wing assembly. The sessions took place in drizzling rain, making for greasy track conditions.
The weather was a more significant factor on Saturday, with torrential rain lashing the circuit leaving standing water on the track for qualifying. The deluge disrupted the session with lengthy red flag incidents in both Q1 and Q2 until the weather cleared. However, the FW31 set-up the team had opted for performed very capably in the wet conditions, with Nico completing both Q1 and Q2 with the fastest times. Q3 was postponed for an hour, but the change in the weather to drier conditions reduced the FW31's set-up advantage, with Nico and Kazuki in P7 and P9 but ensuring Kazuki joined his team-mate in the top ten for the fourth time this season.
Sunday's weather was by contrast dry and sunny. Despite the improved conditions, a series of incidents at the start of the race promoted Nico and Kazuki, with Rosberg claiming a place on merit off the line and following the first lap incidents, had climbed to P3. An early safety car period saw both drivers drop a position on the re-start, but both were positioned for points finishes when both cars retired within four laps of each other, Rosberg on lap 27 and Nakajima on lap 31. Despite a high speed impact, Kazuki has unharmed in his accident.
Q&A with Rod Nelson, Chief Operations Engineer
Q: How competitive was the FW31 at Interlagos?
A: The FW31 showed particularly good pace in the wet, but was also competitive in the dry race.
Q: Did you have any tyre issues in the wet or the dry?
A: Most drivers had problems with the intermediates; struggling to get the fronts to work in the wet and dry conditions.
Q: Saturday marked the longest qualifying session in F1 history. How tough were the conditions?
A: Track conditions were very poor with a combination of rivers running across the track and standing water which was causing aqua planning.
Q: Nico was fastest in Q1 and Q2, yet he qualified seventh. What caused the drop-off in performance?
A: We expected to be more competitive in the wet and less so in the dry partly due to the compromises in car set-up that we made prior to qualifying. The FIA's decision to wait until the rain had cleared certainly didn't help us.
Q: Nico suffered his first DNF of the season on Sunday. What caused his retirement and how much warning did you get?
A: We were aware of a gearbox issue from early on in the race. As there was no easy fix and we weren't aware of any system degradation, we carried on running. Around Nico's pitstop we saw a serious deterioration in performance so we retired the car to avoid further damage, or a safety issue.
Q: Kazuki also retired from the race; please sum up his performance in qualifying and the race.
A: Kazuki was also very competitive in wet qualifying but, as with Nico, we saw this fade a little as the circuit dried out. In the race, he was in a reasonable position but there was some confusion with Kobayashi moving across him out of the pitlane exit that resulted in an accident.
Q: The new Yas Island circuit in Abu Dhabi comes next. How is the team preparing for this final race of the season?
A: We have fully mapped the circuit which allows us to run computer models to assess general characteristics, for example brake wear, likely tyre performance, pitstop times, optimum rear wing level etc. This has also allowed us to produce a 3D representation of the circuit which the drivers can use in the simulator to refine their driving and work on optimising se-tup before the car even turns a wheel.