Williams Belgian Grand Prix post race summary SYNOPSIS The AT&T Williams team had a productive Belgian Grand Prix in spite of a number of challenges faced over the race weekend. In the final analysis, however, Nico Rosberg continued his four...
Williams Belgian Grand Prix post race summary
The AT&T Williams team had a productive Belgian Grand Prix in spite of a number of challenges faced over the race weekend. In the final analysis, however, Nico Rosberg continued his four race run of points finishes, collecting three points and assisting the team to close the gap to Renault ahead of them while extending the advantage to Red Bull behind.
Nevertheless, the prospects for a favourable outcome seemed limited at the start of the race meeting when the team struggled to find satisfactory levels of car optimisation during the two Friday practice sessions. While routine systems checks had been carried out at the Spa test some two months before, the aero changes between the low downforce configuration required in Monza to the differing demands of the Spa circuit, plus a number of mechanical upgrades and the all-important need to determine wing levels meant that the engineers had many variables to assess and optimise.
Overnight on Friday Nico's FW29 had a scheduled engine change while Alex's Toyota RVX-07 powerplant was retained for its second race.
On Saturday morning, having worked hard with the engineers overnight, both drivers were immediately more comfortable in the car and this showed in more competitive lap times. However, during the session, Alex was losing some top speed to Nico, so the engineers tried a lower rear wing level on his car. While performance in the speed traps was improved, the change cost too much across sector two and the original wing level was reinstated, which also provided the higher downforce required by a larger fuel load should the team opt to run Alex on a one-stop strategy.
In qualifying, Nico progressed into Q3 and made good use of his resources by preserving tyres at the necessary points during the sessions and taking tows when he could find them, and qualified behind the two Ferraris and McLarens in fifth place. Alex's afternoon finished at the end of the Q2 session, with the Austrian provisionally starting the race in P16, although he already knew he would be promoted to P15 as one of the BMW's required an unscheduled engine change.
The intended Sunday plan was to two-stop Nico with a short first stint. Although a one-stop mathematically was only a couple of seconds slower, it is a more difficult strategy as the fuel load burden has a negative impact on tyre management. Alex, by contrast, would be fuelled for a one-stop given his likely position in traffic and the freedom to add fuel as required.
The race was relatively straightforward with the intelligent application of Nico's strategy allowing him to beat Kovalainen and Webber, albeit staying ahead of Heidfeld was never a realistic expectation as the BMW was only sixth on the grid because of its larger fuel burden.
Alex's one-stop plan was altered during the course of the race when his car began to show fuel pressure dropouts. The pitwall decided to call him in early to see if the addition of fuel might recover the situation, which it briefly did for six or seven laps, but then the problem manifested itself again, and a second unscheduled stop to overfuel the car was again called to see if this might provide a fix.
In the event, the team decided to retire Alex's car on lap 34 as the problem could not be cured. The decision to pre-emptively call the car in rather than risking damage to the engine means that the failure could be effectively identified and investigated, a process which is currently ongoing.
TYRES & FUEL
Nico followed the preferred tyre selection of most two-stoppers by running medium, medium, soft in the three stints, whereas Alex's modified strategy saw him run medium, soft, medium tyres. Initially Alex was fuelled to over the halfway point of the race before his strategy was amended.
SYSTEMS & RELIABILITY
The fuel pressure problem of Alex's car contributed to the third mechanical retirement that the team has suffered from 28 car starts this season.
The team is testing in Jerez on 18-20 of September prior to departing for Asia the following week for back-to-back races in Japan and China.
Sam Michael, Technical director:
"The outcome of the race was good in terms of the Championship, which is the ultimate objective. However, we have been very focused around restoring our reliability this season, so some aspects of the weekend were a little disappointing. As much as look into the problem that caused Alex's retirement, we also have an ongoing development plan to bring more to the car as the margins between 3rd, 4th and 5th place in the Championship could turn on a race, so we need to be doing our level best to collect as many points as possible in the next three Grands Prix."