Synopsis Nico Rosberg yet again demonstrated a positive pace over the course of the three practice sessions, but the team struggled to convert this to single lap pace for Saturday's qualifying. From P7 on the grid, Nico Rosberg's strategy as ...
Nico Rosberg yet again demonstrated a positive pace over the course of the three practice sessions, but the team struggled to convert this to single lap pace for Saturday's qualifying. From P7 on the grid, Nico Rosberg's strategy as pre-planned on Saturday was to run a fairly short first stint and much would be reliant on claiming at least one position off the line with a good start, making the plan somewhat bold but risky.
Kazuki had a free fuel choice and, to provide the team with a good spread of options, he was placed on a long first stint. However, come the hour, the weather and the race start behind the Safety Car required a wholesale adaptation of strategy plans and it was decided to bring Nico in early on lap 5, a decision made on the expectation that the Safety Car period would be lengthy just as it was in Fuji in 2007, an expectation shared by Renault as they boxed Alonso on lap 7. In the event, a shorter-than-expected period before racing resumed meant that the other short-fuelled cars of Vettel, Webber and Trulli were able to press home their advantage before having to make their first stops. The weather had once again intervened to compromise the team's strategy plans. Having rejoined the field at the back of the pack, Nico struggled for pace for the remainder of the afternoon, mainly due to poor visibility, and crossed the line in P15.
Meanwhile, further down the field, Kazuki Nakajima had a difficult day carrying a heavy fuel load in adverse conditions. Picking up Glock, the dispatch of the second safety car also compromised Kazuki's position as all those ahead of him effectively gained a free pitstop. After several excursions off the race track, a puncture and subsequent damage to the drivetrain of his FW31, Kazuki's race ultimately ended on lap 48. Kazuki's car will require a gearbox change for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but a penalty will not be incurred as he completed less than 90% of the full race distance.
Q&A With Sam Michael, Technical Director
Q: Please sum up your feelings after the Chinese Grand Prix.
SM: It's wasn't our best performance. As a team, we made mistakes which we will be investigating this week at the factory before heading to Bahrain. We have a strong car at the moment and we really need to start capitalising on that and getting some points on the board.
Q: How accurate was your weather forecast? Were you expecting a fully-wet race?
SM: It was actually quite good. We had a link into the Chinese government's weather information on the pitwall which is updated every 15 minutes, and we also share a weather radar with the other teams so we have plenty of resource available to us to ensure that the forecast is accurate. We were therefore expecting it to be wet for the duration of the race.
Q: When running in clear air, how did the FW31 perform in the wet?
SM: It went well, evident by the lap times Nico was putting in.
Q: Why did Nico pit while behind the first Safety Car?
SM: We thought the Safety Car would stay out for a much longer time than it did so, if we had to pit late and the Renault and the two Red Bulls had already pitted, we would have ended up behind them. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong call. The decision cost us a couple of positions but it wasn't the main reason why we didn't perform well in China. In the end, we were just too slow in the wet.
Q: Had it not rained late-on in the race, where do you think Nico could have finished on Intermediates?
SM: The Intermediates worked well for a few laps and it was starting to look like a really good decision, but then the rain increased slightly and that was enough to hand the advantage back to the drivers on the Full Wet tyres. We took a risk because we were out of the points anyway.
Q: Kazuki seemed to have several problems towards the end of the race, what were they?
SM: Kazuki had a right rear puncture and was then forced to stop as he had a gearbox problem. We have subsequently traced the problem to the differential.
Q: In dry conditions, were you pleased with the performance of FW31 around Shanghai?
SM: Our long run pace was really good, but we weren't good enough in qualifying.
Q: What did you think of Bridgestone's dry-tyre compound selection?
SM: They are interesting to manage but overall they are ok.
Q: Looking ahead to Bahrain, how do you expect the FW31 to perform? Will the team have any development parts?
SM: The FW31 should work well in Bahrain so we're looking forward to improving our performance.