Synopsis The AT&T Williams team enjoyed another points scoring weekend at Turkey's Istanbul Park courtesy of Nico's fifth place finish, the four points promoting the team to sixth in the Constructors' Championship. A wholly different...
The AT&T Williams team enjoyed another points scoring weekend at Turkey's Istanbul Park courtesy of Nico's fifth place finish, the four points promoting the team to sixth in the Constructors' Championship.
A wholly different proposition to Monaco's street circuit two weeks' prior, the team arrived at Istanbul's purpose-built facility to a relatively green and dusty track for Friday's practice sessions. Dominated by the opposing natures of the 180o., high speed Turn 8 and the long back straight leading into one of the few overtaking opportunities at Turn 12, the team focussed on achieving a balanced aero and mechanical set-up on Friday, while also bedding in the new front wing brought to the race. Nico and Kazuki also used much of the two sessions evaluating which of the prime and option tyre would bring most performance for qualifying and the race.
Having experienced a level of graining with both tyre compounds during Friday's sessions, the team favoured the prime for qualifying and sent out both drivers on the harder compound for Q1. As such, Nico and Kazuki eased through to Q2, where Kazuki remained to take 12th on the grid. Maintaining his perfect record of Q3 appearances, Nico secured P9 for the race despite carrying a significant fuel load.
Sunday's race saw Nico and Kazuki gain two places off the line apiece, with Nico claiming a further two places by the end of the first lap. The team chose the preferred two stop strategy for both drivers, with Kazuki on a slightly longer middle stint. With no safety car interruptions, the pitwall were able to adhere to the prepared strategies, with Nico's position all the more assisted by his strong start. Despite good progress during his middle stint, a potential points-scoring finish for Kazuki was compromised following a problem with a wheel nut in his last stop. The extended pitstop cost him seventh and left him in P12 at the end of the race. Unable to jump Trulli in the second round of stops, Nico crossed the chequered flag in a season-best fifth place, picking up four points for the team.
Q&A With Sam Michael, Technical Director
Q: Are you pleased with the performance of the FW31 around Istanbul Park?
SM: Yes I am. The FW31's development pace is going well and we are closing the gap to the teams in front. We now need to continue making that kind of progress throughout the rest of this season.
Q: Did the new front wing close the gap to your nearest rivals?
SM: We started set-up work with the new front wing in practice on Friday and it worked as expected straightaway. It will now be the baseline from which we'll keep making developments.
Q: How did you find the two types of tyre available this weekend?
SM: We experienced some graining on the option during the practice sessions which caused us a small amount of concern, but the issue became less problematic by the time we used it during Sunday's race.
Q: Both drivers made good starts in the race. How much work have you done in this area?
SM: We were really happy with the drivers' starts as both Nico and Kazuki gained a couple of positions off the line and, by the end of the first lap, Nico had progressed four places up the order. The Toyota engine has always had a really strong bottom end and that is a crucial element to our starts.
Q: Thoughts on your drivers' race performances?
SM: Nico's first lap was fairly impressive. Starting in ninth and ending the first lap in fifth position was more than we'd hoped for. He made some good overtaking manoeuvres on Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa, all in that first lap, but then to hold position and pull out a gap was great. His first stint was strong, as was his second, so it was frustrating to lose track position to Trulli in the last pitstop. Overall though, Nico did a good job for the team this weekend. Kazuki also drove really well. He had a good first lap but he was on a different strategy to Nico in that he was on a longer first stint. Kazuki kept pushing in the final stint of the race and his pace was really good, it was just a shame about the pitstop as he could have collected a couple of points for seventh.
Q: Nico was only 3.5s behind Trulli at the flag. Was fourth place ever on the cards?
SM: It was, but we couldn't pull out a big enough gap from Trulli in the last few laps before his final stop. Because Trulli was fuelled longer than us and able to hold his position, he was a bit quicker.
Q: What went wrong at Kazuki's second pitstop and how much time did he lose?
SM: We had a problem with the wheel nut retention device and I'm really sorry that we let him down. In order for us to expect a lot from our drivers we, in turn, can't let them down like that.
Q: Silverstone's next. How do you expect the FW31 to perform?
SM: The FW31 has been strong on tracks with high speed corners all year. With the upgrades that we will be taking to Silverstone, I expect us to be fighting for points again.