Synopsis Another package of upgrades for the Hungarian Grand Prix, including front and rear wings and other bodywork changes, enabled the AT&T Williams team to maintain competitive form throughout the weekend. Both cars ran within the top five...
Another package of upgrades for the Hungarian Grand Prix, including front and rear wings and other bodywork changes, enabled the AT&T Williams team to maintain competitive form throughout the weekend. Both cars ran within the top five during Friday's practice sessions, giving the team reasonable confidence about prospects for Saturday's qualifying session. In the event, both cars progressed comfortably into Q2 and Kazuki recorded the third quickest low fuel time, putting him through to the final ten for the third time this year and marking a notable improvement in his qualifying performance. Q3 provided both drivers with only four laps of opportunity to claim an optimum grid slot, in the event Nico achieved his target of P5, but Kazuki was unable to derive the maximum potential from his car. However, both cars had secured grid positions on the clean side of the track.
The team followed a conventional two stop strategy with both cars for the race and ran option-option-prime tyre selections, consistent with most of the grid. Of considerable tactical importance on Sunday was Nico's ability to stay ahead of the KERS powered car of Kovalainen. His strategy was predicated on keeping the sixth placed Finn, who was carrying one extra lap of fuel and likely to be slower in the first stint, behind him. In the event, the McLaren had the stronger start but Nico continued his strong run of opening lap form and was able to re-pass Kovalainen into turn one, bringing his race prospects to life. A short delay of around 1.5 seconds in Nico's first pitstop was costly, but he still exited the pits in front of Mark Webber. Nico did not hold the position, but he was not threatened thereafter in a clean and confident run through his three stints to fourth place, claiming the third fastest lap of the day in the process. Nico's points tally has promoted him to fifth place in the Drivers' Championship.
Team-mate Kazuki Nakajima had more limited opportunities given his start position. A more fruitful race outcome might have been possible if he had been able to hold Jenson Button after overtaking him at the start. With Button back in front of him and holding him up during the first stint, the range of opportunity to improve on his P9 start position was limited, and he ran to the flag without incident and just outside the points.
Q&A With Sam Michael, Technical Director
Q. Did Nico's fourth place in the Hungarian Grand Prix meet expectations?
SM: Yes. Before the race we knew it would be difficult to stay in front of the KERS cars going into turn one so Nico did well to exit the first corner in front of one of the McLarens as it enabled him to cover a lot of ground in the first stint. We cleared the Red Bull after the first pitstop, but Mark Webber managed to make it back past Nico which ultimately set the tone for the second stint.
Q: Nico had a problem during his first stop. What caused it and could he have finished third without it?
SM: We lost a lot of time during Nico's first pitstop and then as well during the laps proceeding it. The two issues combined cost us a place to one of the McLarens, but we recovered that during the second round of stops.
Q: Nico set the third fastest race lap. What can be read into that?
SM: The FW31 was again competitive throughout the race. We now just have to keep bringing developments to the car to keep it that way!
Q: Did you have any tyre wear issues on either car?
SM: No, no tyre issues on either car.
Q: Kazuki just missed out on scoring a point. What were the key moments of his race?
SM: Kazuki had a great opening lap but then lost a position to Button at the start of his second lap. Unfortunately, the Brawn was heavier and slower during the first stint so Kazuki's race was compromised from the outset. It also allowed other drivers behind him who were running longer to close the gap.
Q: How will the two week summer shutdown affect your preparations for the European Grand Prix?
SM: We will be working hard this week to prepare the cars for Valencia and then the two week enforced shutdown will commence. It won't, however, affect our preparations for the next race.
Q: Do you expect the FW31 to be competitive at Valencia?
SM: Yes. Our performance was reasonable at Valencia last year because it's a street circuit. With the improvements we've made this year, we expect to be competitive again. However, it's an ideal circuit for KERS.