Following Thursday's two practice sessions, the AT&T Williams team again demonstrated competitive pace, but contrary to some commentators' expectations, carried their form through into the tactically- critical qualifying session on Saturday....
Following Thursday's two practice sessions, the AT&T Williams team again demonstrated competitive pace, but contrary to some commentators' expectations, carried their form through into the tactically- critical qualifying session on Saturday. Kazuki Nakajima matched his career-best 10th place which made it his first appearance in Q3 this season, and indeed since Singapore last year. Nico Rosberg showed strongly in his first timed laps in final qualifying and, in discussion with his engineers, confirmed that there was more in the car. It was a disappointment to him that traffic in his final pair of timed laps didn't allow him to demonstrate his full pace. Equally, given the potential pace of the FW31, the Williams engineers had carried fuel into Q3 for a strategy that was based on a higher grid slot, which meant Nico's race plan was somewhat compromised from the off, carrying a lighter and less-than-optimal fuel load.
On Sunday, both drivers had clean starts and held their grid positions, but in a bid to allow his race strategy to work, Nico made two well-judged overtaking passes on Massa on lap 7 and Vettel on lap 8, taking advantage of the better performance of his prime tyres, climbing to P4 and briefly leading the race as the first round of stops got underway. Unfortunately, after pitting on lap 18 and fuelling for a long middle stint, Nico had shown his hand first and lost track position to Mark Webber and Felipe Massa who responded with a shorter first stop. As the order shook out, Nico ran through the second round of stops and onto the flag in P6.
Kazuki by comparison ran a long first stint, fuelled to almost mid-distance, but found his progress plagued by traffic from two-stopping cars rejoining, resulting in him dropping off for blue flags. Despite this, Kazuki was on course for a top ten finish until he suffered an accident in the closing phase of the race on lap 77.
Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q: Were you satisfied with the performance of the FW31 at Monaco?
A: Williams have traditionally been strong at Monaco and this year was no exception, with Nico setting competitive qualifying times when it mattered. So, yes, I was satisfied with the car's pace in Monaco.
Q: Many cars had tyre wear issues on the super-soft rubber. Was it the same for Williams?
A: The issue on the Super Soft compound was actually severe graining, not wear rate. Williams did not have any issue with this during the race, unlike a couple of teams, but that was purely because we planned a very short final stint on the Super Soft after we saw severe graining in practice. As a result, we never carried a lot of fuel with that tyre and the drivers were asked to take it easy on the Super Soft.
Q: Nico was fastest in Q1, yet he qualified sixth. Did he have a problem in Q3?
A: Yes, when he started his last run in Q3 he had a gap of 4.5 seconds between himself and Rubens Barrichello. Unfortunately, Rubens was doing a slow / fast lap sequence so Nico caught him half way around the lap, just before Tabac corner. We should have started the lap with a larger gap in the traffic.
Q: Was sixth a good result for Nico in the race, all things considered?
A: Three points is always welcome, but Formula One is all about expectation and we should have delivered more than that with the pace that the FW31 had around Monaco.
Q: Did you think about letting Kazuki pass Nico when they were running nose-to-tail after Nico's first stop?
A: Yes, we briefly considered it but it would have hurt Nico's race too much. Nico was flat out on a clean track and trying to stay in front of the other cars around him at the time. As Nico was on a compromised strategy anyway (he had too little fuel on board for the first stint because of the traffic he had in the top ten shoot out in qualifying Q3), losing even half a second would have cost him dearly.