Williams Japanese Grand Prix post race summary
Fuji Speedway may have been absent from the Formula One calendar for 30 years, but conditions upon its return for last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix proved remarkably similar to those at the sport's last visit in 1977. A rain soaked weekend played havoc with Saturday's running and then eliminated almost half the field come Sunday's race.
AT&T Williams driver, Alex Wurz, was the first victim of the conditions, while team mate Nico Rosberg's race also ended prematurely following an electrical issue. The result was the team's first non-points scoring race since the British Grand Prix in July.
Friday's practice sessions progressed smoothly under scattered cloud. Extensive homework on the team's simulator prior to arrival at Fuji paid dividends for both drivers and allowed the team to effectively work through their usual job list of systems checks, set-up work and tyre evaluations.
Nico and Alex concluded the day having covered almost 600kms, recording top ten times in FP1 and just outside in FP2 while doing their longer stints. The team confirmed that Nico would have to endure an unscheduled engine change which would drop him ten places in Saturday's qualifying.
Proceedings were severely disrupted on Saturday morning with the third free practice session rendered albeit redundant, the result of poor weather conditions limiting visibility which grounded the recovery helicopter. None of the teams were able to attain any consistency, with the majority only on track for one or two laps. The AT&T Williams pairing recorded the quickest times of the distorted session ahead of qualifying.
The afternoon's qualifying session was marred by more disruptive weather and was run on a wet track. Combined with a call to the weighbridge and some heavy traffic, Alex Wurz was eliminated in the first round, his time of 1:27.454 putting him in P18.
Nico Rosberg eased through rounds one and two and made it into Q3. Sixth place followed a blisteringly quick lap time on what transpired to be a heavy fuel load. Nico's efforts awarded him a place in the top ten for the tenth time this season but any celebrations were short-lived as the ten place grid penalty moved him to an undesirable 16th on the grid for Sunday's race.
Race day didn't bring any clearer conditions and the race was started under the confines of the safety car. Both drivers made clean starts on prescribed wet Bridgestone Potenzas. The team brought Alex in for his one and only stop towards the end of the safety car period and fuelled him to the end of the race.
What could have been a progressive strategy was soon nullified when Alex was tagged under braking by Sato at turn one and sent into the gravel a lap after the safety car was brought in. Nico's race was similarly unsuccessful. At the conclusion of the second safety car period, Nico suffered a problem with his onboard control systems. A change of steering wheel during his second stop did not solve the problem and Nico was forced out of the race on lap 49.
TYRES & FUEL
Both drivers ran the full wet tyre for their entire race running and started the race on heavy fuel loads with a view to a long first stint.
SYSTEMS & RELIABILITY
Nico Rosberg's premature retirement, only the fourth out of 30 starts this year, was prompted by an electronic fault on a brake pressure sensor which will be rectified prior to China.
The team will travel straight to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday 7th October.
Sam Michael, Technical director:
"The result in Japan certainly wasn't what we were hoping for. We had a good strategy on Alex's car but unfortunately couldn't capitalise upon it after his incident with Sato forced him out quite early. Nico was evidently on the pace all weekend but retired in the last third of the Grand Prix following a problem with an electrical sensor. We need to get back into points-scoring positions in China this weekend, particularly as the Championship is still so tight with just two more races to go."