SYNOPSIS Despite encouraging practice pace, the AT&T Williams team were unable to convert early promise into points at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix and return home from a six week trip to the Far East with just 3.5 points on the ...
Despite encouraging practice pace, the AT&T Williams team were unable to convert early promise into points at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix and return home from a six week trip to the Far East with just 3.5 points on the board.
Practice saw the team carry out the usual programme of mechanical and aero set-up work on Friday, all the more important for Nico Rosberg in Bahrain as he was using an upgraded aero package on his FW31 for this race. With temperatures hovering around the mid-to late thirties for the duration of the weekend, work was focussed on determining the operating parameters and degradation rates of the prime and option tyres, as well as the thermal parameters of the car in such extreme heat. As such, the team ran three different cooling levels on Friday to determine the optimum balance between keeping engine, gearbox and electrical box temperatures controlled for reliability while maintaining aero performance. The tyre compares undertaken showed that, although the degradation levels weren't significantly disparate between the two tyre compounds, the softer tyre ran seven tenths quicker over the lap so would be the preferred choice of the team for qualifying and the race.
Saturday's qualifying session proved as competitive as ever among the teams. For AT&T Williams, both Nico and Kazuki made it into Q2 but the team's end result of P9 for Nico (leaving his '09 season run of Q3 entries unbroken) and P12 for Kazuki was not unexpected. Nico struggled to optimise the grip levels of his tyres and was left unsettled with an understeering car, while Kazuki didn't have the benefit of the new aero components to assist his pace to make it into Q3.
Both drivers made good starts for Sunday's race, but Nico's was overshadowed by the KERS- equipped Ferraris whom he lost position to going into the first corner and Kazuki sustained an incident on lap two which required him to stop for a new nose leaving him at the back of the field from where he never recovered. With just eight laps to go, the pitwall were then forced to retire Kazuki having noticed spikes in his oil pressure. Meanwhile, Nico's two stop strategy involving a long first stint was compromised by traffic at just the critical moments in his race plan leaving him to finish the race just two tenths off a points-paying position in ninth place. Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q: What were the upgrades on Nico's car this weekend and how did they affect performance?
SM: We brought out some upgraded bodywork components which we ran on Nico's car (Kazuki did not have them this weekend, but will for Barcelona). We obviously put them through their paces during the practice sessions and they all seemed to work fine.
Q: Nico made a good start; what caused him to lose so many places into Turn One?
SM: Nico's start was excellent, but he was banked either side by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen who both have KERS. After the race, he reported that their speed going into the first corner was surprising and he was simply unable to keep them behind him.
Q: How much damage was there to Kazuki's car after his crash on lap two?
SM: Kazuki damaged the left front wing endplate which, as we know, subsequently led to an unscheduled pitstop for a nose change. After that, he was able to continue the race unaffected.
Q: What caused Kazuki's retirement from the race?
SM: The engineers were getting readings of oil pressure dropouts so we were forced to retire him early to avoid risking a failure.
Q: Given the lack of chimneys on the sidepods this year, how much of an issue was cooling?
SM: Despite the temperatures in Bahrain, which saw ambients reaching 38C during Saturday's qualifying and track temperatures spiking at 57C during Friday's practice sessions, cooling wasn't an issue for the FW31 over the weekend.
Q: What was the difference in performance between the super soft and medium compound tyres?
SM: Quite a lot, about 0.7seconds.
Q: What was the biggest thing that the team learnt at the Bahrain Grand Prix?
SM: In summary, we didn't leave Bahrain in the position where we needed to be. We've only accumulated 3.5 points from four races this season and we need to improve upon that going into the European rounds if we're going to stay in the game. It's clear from this weekend's Grand Prix that we definitely need to perform better in qualifying and to assist the drivers going into the first corner, among other things.