AT&T Williams arrived in Japan with a determination to recover from a missed opportunity in Singapore and left rewarded with four points from Nico Rosberg's fourth 5th place of the season at the 5.8km Suzuka circuit. As anticipated, Japan's ...
AT&T Williams arrived in Japan with a determination to recover from a missed opportunity in Singapore and left rewarded with four points from Nico Rosberg's fourth 5th place of the season at the 5.8km Suzuka circuit. As anticipated, Japan's predictable storm showers broke cover in time for the Friday practice sessions, leaving the team with only a minimal amount of track time. Indeed, Nico only managed to record 28 laps, while Kazuki covered 26, roughly half the number completed on a normal Friday. With the running the weather allowed, the team covered off valuable tyre comparisons to evaluate where the window between the prime and option fell as well as completing set-up evaluations and aero checks. Both drivers reported a confidence in their cars, with Nico ending both sessions in the middle of the pack and Kazuki 2nd quickest in session one and 5th in P2.
The weather promised better things on Saturday, and indeed the day remained dry throughout providing a good platform for a more straightforward day on track. However, Suzuka lived up to its unforgiving reputation during qualifying when it created casualties out of no less than five drivers in the hour, causing a total of three red flag incidents, two of which came during Q2 severely disrupting Nico's running schedule and compromising his ability to finish in the top ten. Kazuki's afternoon proved more disappointing when his progress ended in Q1 with the 17th best time, the result of an inability to find enough grip with his FW31. A batch of penalties handed out to various drivers within the top ten for speeding offences under yellows after Alguesuari's Q2 accident promoted both AT&T Williams drivers up the order, Nico by four places and Kazuki by two.
With the grid shaken up, Nico ended up in a car weighing 685 kilos (one of the heaviest fuel loads on the grid) but managed to hold position with another clean start off the line, as well as move up the order by two places following a late first stop on lap 22. Nico entered the middle stage of the race in P5 before making a final stop just as the safety car was deployed for another incident involving Alguesuari. Rejoining the race in the same position, Nico remained in P5 to the chequered flag. A post-race steward's enquiry into Nico's sector times under the safety car were dismissed as the stewards accepted that he was unable to see the safety car time delta for a short period when his dash indicators were automatically over-ridden by a fuel warning display.
Kazuki's hopes of a points-scoring finish in front of his home crowd were unfulfilled as his one stop strategy was blighted by traffic, a lack of clean air and the heaviest car in the field on the opening stint, all of which cost him the possibility of finishing any higher than his start position of 15th.
Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q: How did Friday's wet running compromise preparation for qualifying and the race?
SM: Obviously it affected us quite a lot, although it was the same for everyone. We had some new parts with us for Japan, as well as some alternative set-ups which we wanted to try out, so the time with which we had to do that was limited. When you lose so much track time as we did on Friday, you simply have to re-prioritise and inevitably drop some items from your list.
Q: How relevant was the team's technical data from the last race at Suzuka in 2006?
SM: A little, but not much! The cars have changed a great deal since the race in 2006. We now have a single tyre supplier, slicks and completely different aerodynamics so there wasn't a huge amount of data that was still relevant.
Q: Give the pace of the FW31 at Spa, was it more competitive at Suzuka than you expected?
SM: Well, Suzuka is a different track to Spa and has a higher downforce level. We were strong during the first stint of our race in Japan, which is why we were more competitive and scored points.
Q: How did the two red flags during Q2 compromise Nico's qualifying?
SM: They had a considerable influence because we were concentrating on the prime tyre at the time. To do that, you need to be able to do multiple laps. When the session time is lost, your runs, and therefore your qualifying, is compromised.
Q: Were you pleased with Nico's race performance?
SM: Yes, he drove a good race.
Q: Kazuki finished his home race in 15th position. Could he have finished higher on a different strategy?
SM: It's always going to be a difficult race starting from 15th. We went for the one stop strategy banking on something happening which could affect his position, but it didn't so we couldn't capitalise on it.
Q: Were there any tyre issues on either car over the weekend?
SM: No, no tyre issues.
Q: How do you expect the FW31 to perform at Interlagos?
SM: We expect to be competitive. The season is drawing to a close now, so we need to be scoring as many points as possible. Our chances of doing that in Brazil are good.