Synopsis The low drag problem bedevilled the AT&T Williams team again in Monza this weekend. The team anticipated a difficult weekend a fortnight earlier and spent the intervening period since first practice at Spa earlier in the month working...
The low drag problem bedevilled the AT&T Williams team again in Monza this weekend. The team anticipated a difficult weekend a fortnight earlier and spent the intervening period since first practice at Spa earlier in the month working on aerodynamic revisions in the wind tunnel and testing the changes at an aero test day before the Monza meeting. However, it proved insufficient to provide the team with enough pace to claim reasonable grid positions, and the race outcome was compromised by Saturday's qualifying result.
It was hoped that sufficient performance could be found to progress into Q2 on Saturday and in the event both drivers missed the cut narrowly, but without this margin, the only solution was a long fuel one stop strategy, exposing both Kazuki and Nico to the possibility of involvement in a turn one incident off the line.
Although both drivers made strong starts in spite of running at over 700kgs, Nico moving up to P14 and Kazuki P15, contact with both cars saw Nico lose aerodynamic balance as debris became lodged on his car and a tangle with one of the Renaults damaged his front right wheel. For his part, Kazuki suffered damage to his rear wing endplate, and further into the race, was hampered by a fuel pressure problem. However, Nico's problems were more immediate; he boxed for a suspected puncture on lap 4, but the tyre was found to be at normal operating pressure when checked after the stop and it was surmised that the debris that had become lodged in his car had seen an aero loss that unbalanced the car and felt as if a tyre was losing pressure. His problems were compounded by the damage to the right front wheel which meant the wheel change in the stop was problematic.
Meanwhile, team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, having passed both Toyotas, fought strongly to hold his position despite his fuel pressure problem. He ran his strategy to schedule and was rewarded with a seven place gain on his start position, but even this progression saw him unable to claim his first points of the season. The team is now finalising a car upgrade in time for a return to a circuit configuration that will suit the FW31 for the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks time.
Q&A With Rod Nelson, Chief Operations Engineer
Q: Monza turned out to be the team's least competitive showing of the year. Why was this?
A: The majority of circuits throughout the season are considered to be high downforce tracks. Spa is a medium downforce track due to its combination of long straights and high speed corners while, with its long straights and mainly low speed corners, Monza is the only low downforce circuit on the calendar. We therefore consider that our resources are better placed concentrating on aero development for the higher downforce tracks. It is also one of the circuits where KERS can give a significant advantage and we do not have our KERS online at present.
Q: Did Nico and Kazuki have similar handling issues at Monza?
A: The two drivers were quite evenly matched throughout the weekend and had similar issues with their car. The low downforce levels that you have to run at Monza presented us with ride and braking problems, but that is normal. Overall, they were both reasonably satisfied with the compromises that we had to make with chassis set-up.
Q: Were there any tyre-related problems during the course of the weekend?
A: As is usually the case at Monza, the tyres have quite a hard time mainly due to the sustained lateral acceleration in Parabolica. Most people tend to go for a one stop race as it's the fastest strategy which means the tyres run for a longer period than usual and on heavier fuel loads. Having said that, however, we didn't have any major issues with our tyres this weekend.
Q: Kazuki out qualified Nico for the third time this year. Please sum up his performance at Monza.
A: Kazuki went to Monza very well prepared. In fact, he underperformed during his second run in Q1 because of traffic and just missed out on Q2 by six hundredths of a second. He had a reasonable start and managed to get past both Grosjean and Glock on the first lap, followed by Trulli on the second lap. Despite some robust challenges, he held position and did a good job in the race.
Q: Nico made an unscheduled pitstop on lap four of the race. Why was this?
A: One of Kazuki's rear wing endplates was damaged by another car on the first lap of the race and the broken piece was left on the track in Turn 3. Ironically, another driver ahead of Nico drove over the debris a few laps later. It flicked up and became stuck in Nico's front wing and that cost him a lot of downforce. Nico thought the problem was a puncture so he pitted to change tyres.
Q: We go to Singapore next. How do you expect the FW31 to perform there?
A: I am hopeful that we will be back up there again. We'll have some new aero upgrade parts on the cars and we hope we will be back scoring points on a regular basis for the last four races of the year.