The Event Formula One's European season gets underway this weekend with the 26th San Marino Grand Prix to be held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on 23rd April. Following a demanding start to this year's Championship, which has seen the...
Formula One's European season gets underway this weekend with the 26th San Marino Grand Prix to be held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on 23rd April. Following a demanding start to this year's Championship, which has seen the teams travel to three flyaway races in less than four weeks, the start of the European rounds invariably provides a more representative platform for the grid to display its true competitiveness.
Having won 30 per cent of the races held at Imola, the WilliamsF1 Team is the most successful Formula One team to have ever competed in the San Marino Grand Prix since the race's inception in 1981. Following both retirements in Australia, the team has re-doubled its efforts to strengthen the reliability of the FW28 and is hopeful of improving its fortunes at a track which has often delivered results in the past.
Between the races
Both Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg's schedules have remained relatively clear following their return from Australia. Mark, however, will fulfill a single marketing commitment prior to the race this weekend on behalf of team sponsor, Reuters, and will spend Tuesday instructing the news group's corporate guests in the art of single seater race craft at the Bedford Aerodrome. Upon arrival in Italy this week, he will also attend an award ceremony to collect the prestigious Trofeo Lorenzo Bandini for his performance over the 2005 season.
Making the car go fast
During the three week break between the Australian and San Marino Grands Prix, the team has completed two test sessions in Vallelunga and Barcelona. Alex Wurz undertook testing duties for the two days in Vallelunga, covering nearly 800kms while carrying out critical tyre evaluations in preparation for Imola as well as running new suspension parts on the FW28.
Last week's Barcelona test saw all the Williams drivers out in force with a four day session at the Spanish track. Webber, Rosberg, Wurz and Karthikeyan all assumed testing responsibilities, recording just under 3,000kms while working on reliability issues and improving the performance of the FW28. As part of the team's continual development programme, the cars were run with various new mechanical components as well as new aero items, all of which will be rolled out at the next race.
San Marino from a technical perspective
Steeped in history and with awe-inspiring corners such as Rivazza, Acqua Minerale and the Piratella, Imola is rightly regarded as one of the most evocative circuits on the calendar. However, it is also a physically challenging track that demands driver aggression and a balanced car package for perfect handling.
A car only with outstanding curb-riding abilities will survive the 62 lap race as the drivers will be forced to wrestle with ten left and six right-hand turns over each 4.933 kilometre lap. Combined with the mix of long, high speed straights and medium to high speed corners common to Imola, optimum mechanical set-up will be crucial for success in San Marino.
"Being the first European race of the season, Imola is always keenly awaited by everyone as it feels as though we're finally back home after the first three flyaways and that the new season is really underway. There's always a pretty good atmosphere in the paddock as we return to working out of our motorhomes and the whole set-up has a much more traditional and familiar feel."
"The track itself provides us with a unique challenge as it's somewhere we really have to use the curbs quite a lot. I've always enjoyed racing at Imola and, falling after a successful test at Barcelona last week when both Bridgestone and Williams made good progress with the tyres and car respectively, I'm looking forward to getting the car on the track."
"I'm looking forward to my first Formula One race in Imola. Bridgestone have made some good progress on their compounds for cooler temperatures, as we saw in Melbourne. The team's test went well in Barcelona last week and I believe we made good progress, especially with the aero package. I know the Imola track from GP2 so that will be a help to me, definitely, so we will see how it goes."
Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1:
"Since the last race, the team has been testing at Vallelunga and Barcelona to improve the car's reliability and performance. We have identified the problem we had on Mark's gearbox in Melbourne and put corrections in place to avoid that type of failure again."
"Imola mainly consists of medium and high speed corners and chicanes. The curb riding requirements at San Marino tend to dominate the mechanical set-up of the car, but high speed stability is also important. We will have some aerodynamic and mechanical improvements on the FW28, all of which form part of our normal season-long development programme."
"Bridgestone have been working hard to improve tyre grip on low temperature surfaces and, as a result of this work, we will have two new tyre designs in Imola. Tyre wear is not an issue, however, particularly with such a short pitlane and the effect that has on fuel strategy for the race. The FW28 has proved its competitiveness in the first three races of 2006 and with greater reliability we should be able to run near the front of the grid."
Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth:
"In order to ensure the best possible engine reliability in Imola, both drivers will start the event with fresh CA2006 Series 2 engines. As neither Mark nor Nico finished the previous race, they will not suffer a grid penalty as a result of this decision. Cosworth continue to work closely with Williams to carefully manage race engine usage and running conditions, while the usual challenge of delivering the best possible performance without compromising engine reliability remains."