The AT&T Williams team had a solid if unremarkable Monaco Grand Prix, with certainly the sense that the team had a little more innate pace than it was able to demonstrate, but the team was nevertheless satisfied to collect points and consolidate...
The AT&T Williams team had a solid if unremarkable Monaco Grand Prix, with certainly the sense that the team had a little more innate pace than it was able to demonstrate, but the team was nevertheless satisfied to collect points and consolidate the claim to 5th place in the Constructors' Championship while seeing Alex Wurz off the mark in the Drivers' Championship. The AT&T Williams driver pairing were the only two who avoided the barriers all weekend and spared their mechanics from the furious repair work going on up and down the pitlane from Thursday onwards.
During Thursday's free practice sessions, morning progress was patchy as the track conditions changed markedly as the track progressively began to rubber in. The variability in conditions made early set-up progress challenging, but by the end of the afternoon 90 minute session, both drivers reported encouraging progress, even if traffic in the closing stages prevented Alex from cementing a top 5 laptime.
With no track activity but plenty of wet weather on Friday, Saturday's third practice session was also run the in the rain before an afternoon qualifying session on a greenish track with the continuing threat of more weather potentially intervening. Alex progressed as far as Q2 and p12, which subsequently became p11 when Coulthard was penalised two grid positions for blocking Renault's Kovalainen. Nico however had banked a 1.16.100 and what turned out to be p7 on his first flying lap in Q2 before reporting a problem originating from the rear suspension. He garaged the car during the session and the team diagnosed and replaced a rear damper, but his time was more than adequate to ensure he progressed to Q3, in which session he advanced his case by two places to claim p5 on the provisional starting grid for the race.
Both cars had strong starts on Sunday, so much so for Nico that he caught Fisichella too quickly, became boxed on the inside and had to take defensive action, braking hard and allowing Heidfeld (who started in p7), to pass him. The move proved fatal to Nico's race as the BMW was carrying lots of fuel and running on the less favoured super-soft tyre, costing Nico valuable time for the first stint and ultimately compromising his carefully choreographed race strategy.
From his start, Alex took a place from Jenson Button off the line and when the first pit stop window opened, he climbed as high as p6 by lap 37, running on to lap 44 for his one and only stop. The crucial period in Alex's first stint came when Barrichello pitted on lap 37 and Button on lap 41, providing Alex with a handful of laps to open up an advantage. He emerged from this stop in p7 which he held to the flag, but spent the closing laps vigorously defending from a hard-charging Raikkonen.
TYRES & FUEL
Nico & Alex in common with the majority of runners on the grid started the race on the soft Bridgestone Potenzas before taking the super soft tyre for their shortest final stint. Nico was among the first to box on his two stop strategy, sharing lap 23 with Fischella. Most two-stoppers completed their first stop by lap 29, excepting the two Hondas who opted to run an even longer first stint. Alex by contrast ran into a relatively wide one-stop window which opened on lap 32 when Heidfeld stopped and closed with Schumacher on lap 49, with Alex pitting towards the first half of the window on lap 44.
SYSTEMS & RELIABILITY
Both FW29s ran across all sessions with only one unscheduled maintenance requirement, the only one of note was the change of a rear damper to Rosberg's car during qualifying 2 on Saturday
The team is in short turnaround and preparation to travel to Montreal for the pair of North American races in Canada (On June 10) and in Indianapolis (on June 17). The team's first testing opportunity will be immediately after this second race at Silverstone on June 19.
"Our Monaco performance was respectable by all kinds of measures -- Alex got off the mark in the Drivers' Championship, we showed good pace at various points over the weekend and Alex and Nico kept out of the wall all week, a not insubstantial achievement. However, we naturally hoped for a little more and it was something of a disappointment not to consolidate on the inherent pace we managed to find from time to time over the weekend."