The AT&T Williams team maintained a high level of car development and brought a detailed aero upgrade to the Nurburgring, comprising a new front wing as well as diffuser and engine cover modifications. The upgrade was validated during Friday's ...
The AT&T Williams team maintained a high level of car development and brought a detailed aero upgrade to the Nurburgring, comprising a new front wing as well as diffuser and engine cover modifications. The upgrade was validated during Friday's practice sessions and remained on the car for the remainder of the weekend. A change in direction on Friday and Saturday morning, intended to help the team prepare for Q3, meant that the team didn't expect to run at the top of the timesheets in practice. The team also introduced a wheel modification to assist in the pitstops and this design change was validated on one car and will be raced on both FW31s in Hungary.
Both Friday and Saturday's running was dominated by gusty wind conditions and low track temperatures, making tyre warm-up difficult. In Saturday afternoon's qualifying session, both Nico and Kazuki progressed cleanly through Q1. Starting Q2 on option tyres, the team adopted a similar programme to many of its competitors and quickly aborted its first run on both cars as the rain fell, boxing for intermediate tyres. Finding sufficient pace on intermediates for both drivers proved problematic, a situation that wasn't improved when there was a brief window for slicks which Nico managed to take advantage of, but found himself unable to repeat the good pace he had found in Q1. As a consequence, the qualifying performance was disappointing and the team took the decision to fuel the cars for a long first stint and start Sunday's race on prime tyres, required given the penalty of carrying additional fuel.
Starting Sunday's race on primes, despite the change in climatic conditions and many other teams electing to start the race on options, might have made Nico and Kazuki's starts somewhat compromised. In the event, Nico had a very strong opening lap, passing cars on the outside of turn one and by the close of the lap had climbed six places from his start position. Kazuki's start was however compromised by an accident that pushed him back down the field to P19, from which position he could only improve to P12. Towards the end of the first stint, fuel pressure drop-outs on Nico's car meant that first stop was called a handful of laps early and he was obliged to carry additional fuel for the remainder of the race to compensate for the problem, without the penalty of which he may have had a good opportunity to challenge for P3.
Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q. Were you pleased with the progress of the team at the Nurburgring?
We're improving the performance levels of the FW31 every race, and that's translating into greater competitiveness across a variety of tracks. All the teams are bringing upgrades to each race, so it's encouraging to see that our development plan is working.
Q. How did the cool conditions affect tyre performance?
Quite a lot. It was difficult to get the tyres up to their correct operating conditions and then to keep them there. It was clear as early as Friday morning that it was going to be an issue and remain so throughout the weekend. When that happens there is also a high risk of graining, which is why we opted to run the harder prime tyre for the majority of the race.
Q. Please explain the rationale behind the team's tyre choices during Q2.
Like the rest of the field, we did one lap on slick tyres but abandoned it when it started to rain and switched to intermediates. While on the Inters, Kazuki radioed in to say that the track was ready to go back on slicks, but it would be prudent to do another lap on the Inters. That almost paid off for him. By the time he went back out on the slicks, it had rained again and we'd missed the window. Nico was on a similar strategy. He was out on track at the right time with the slicks, but his car balance wasn't right. There was some luck going on with the choices we made, but it was the same for everyone and we just didn't do as good a job as the other teams.
Q. What caused the fuel system problem on Nico's car in the race, and what were the ramifications?
Five laps before Nico's first pit-stop we started to see issues with the fuel rail high pressure which forced us into pitting earlier than we had fuel for. We also added a large amount of extra fuel to give us the margin we needed at the second stop. This meant Nico had to carry the extra margin for the remainder of the race which slowed him down. We have now analysed the data and parts, understood the problem and put in place revisions to the system for Budapest GP.
Q. Do you think this was Nico's best race in F1?
That's fairly subjective but, if you judge him by his progression through the field and his recent first lap performances, it's clear Nico is driving really well at the moment. His first lap at the Nurburgring reminded me of his performance in Istanbul where he also made significant gains in the opening lap.
Q. How would you sum up Kazuki's performance at the Nurburgring?
Again, Kazuki was quick throughout qualifying and the race, demonstrated when he set the fifth fastest race lap time. Unfortunately, though, he spent the race in traffic so wasn't able to show what he was capable of.
Q. Looking ahead, how do you expect the FW31 to perform in Hungary?
We should be competitive there too. We will be taking more upgrades to Budapest, but all the teams need to be bringing 0.2 seconds to every race just to stay where they are. It's so close out there that you can't afford not to bring new parts to every race.