Synopsis After showing strong form at the opening round of the season, the second leg of the Australia-Malaysia back-to-back reinforced the team's competitive pace and reliability, this time on a more traditional, high speed circuit. The weekend...
After showing strong form at the opening round of the season, the second leg of the Australia-Malaysia back-to-back reinforced the team's competitive pace and reliability, this time on a more traditional, high speed circuit. The weekend opened with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima dominating Friday's first practice session in their FW31s, followed by P4 for Nico and P8 for team-mate Kazuki in session two. In a closely fought qualifying battle, Nico secured P6 from the top ten shoot-out, while Kazuki just missed out on a slot in Q3 by a tenth of a second. Both drivers were promoted to P4 and P11 respectively following Vettel and Barrichello's grid penalties.
A flawless start to the Grand Prix saw Nico take the lead going into the first corner, which he retained up until his first pitstop on lap 15. Wheel-spin off the line cost Kazuki position to the surrounding KERS-equipped cars at the start, forcing him to spend the opening stage of the race behind a slower Piquet in the Renault. A later start time of 5pm this year saw Malaysia's notorious early evening storms arrive mid-way through proceedings, as anticipated. With lightening striking the grandstands and lashing rain quickly turning the track into a swimming pool, the safety car was soon deployed before Race Control red flagged the Grand Prix seconds later on lap 32. Little improvement in the conditions kept the cars on the start/finish straight for over 45 minutes before the stewards ruled out a re-start. With the race abandoned, the drivers were classified in accordance with their positions on lap 31; Nico in 8th and Kazuki in 12th.
Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q What updates did you introduce on FW31, and did they perform as you'd hoped?
We bought a new suspension component and a front wing endplate. Both performed as we expected.
Q What set-up changes did you make to both cars on Friday?
We tested normal set-up items, so aero balance and roll stiffness, and we also concentrated on the two Bridgestone tyres.
Q Were you surprised that Nico was quickest in two of the three practice sessions?
Q How good was Nico's fastest lap on heavier fuel in Q3?
We appear to be more competitive with a heavier fuel load than when we are running with less fuel, like in Q2, so Nico's lap was good.
Q How much did the post-qualifying grid penalties of Vettel and Barrichello affect your fuel strategy with Nico?
We went a couple of laps shorter than normal to ensure a place on the second row.
Q Where was Kazuki losing out to Nico?
For most of practice Kazuki was very close to Nico but, when the grip ramps up like it did in qualifying, Nico seemed able to extract just a little bit more out of the car.
Q It was an amazing start by Nico from the dirty side of the grid. How did he do it?
You could probably put it down to some great engine torque from Toyota.
Q How was his tyre wear during the first stint?
Tyre wear wasn't a problem.
Q Kazuki lost out to various KERS cars at the start; when will we see the system on FW31?
As soon as possible.
Q What was your weather forecast telling you about the chances of rain? Was it accurate?
It was saying full rain was due around lap 20. That obviously wasn't accurate because we had moderate rain for about 15 minutes before the full-on deluge arrived. Going to the intermediates would have worked better for us but considering the radar pictures we had at the time it would have been risky to have made that call.
Q Once the race had been stopped, what information did you receive from race control about a potential re-start?
Just the normal information like grid positions for the re-start.
Q Should the race have been re-started?
No. It was too wet and by then too dark.
Q Do you think next year's Malaysian Grand Prix should start at 5pm?
I think it should start at 4pm.