Singapore GP Review The AT&T Williams team bought a comprehensive aero upgrade to Singapore, comprising a new front and rear wing, diffuser modifications and a number of other mechanical revisions. With the FW31 designed around the ...
Singapore GP Review
The AT&T Williams team bought a comprehensive aero upgrade to Singapore, comprising a new front and rear wing, diffuser modifications and a number of other mechanical revisions. With the FW31 designed around the higher downforce, lower speed circuits that dominate the calendar, the team was confident that they could regain the form demonstrated up until Valencia, and with the upgrades offering a handful of tenths, that the car would be additionally competitive.
Both Friday practice sessions were extremely busy and required plenty of intensive engineering to baseline the new aero package and start to generate a positive set-up direction, and it wasn't really until Saturday morning practice that the pit wall began to generate some confidence that the car would be strong, although to what extent would remain unclear until the evening qualifying session.
With both cars progressing into Q2, the session came alive when Nico posted the low fuel lap of the weekend, a 1.46.197 with two purple sectors, giving him the confidence to sit out a considerable period of the session in the garage. Team-mate Nakajima looked likely to progress through as well, but a late charge from one of the Red Bulls demoted him from the top ten in the dying seconds of the session.
Rosberg's stunning lap in Q2 was the launch pad for a strong first run on new options in Q3, but seeking some tyre pressure adjustments, he boxed and took a new set of the super softs for his second run, but his expectation of improving was cut short by the session being red flagged.
From P3 on the clean side of the grid on Sunday, it was Nico's mission to get ahead of Vettel into turn 1, which he duly achieved and for the first 18 lap stint, was able to keep Hamilton (who was leading the race) no more than 3 seconds distant while comfortably having the measure of the Red Bull behind (and crucially having the advantage of around two more laps of fuel to respond to Vettel's second stint strategy). Nakajima however lost his clean start when Heidfeld on P7 was demoted to the back of the grid and the starting line-up reformed behind him. With the two Brawns in front and behind Kazuki handily gifted a clean start by the BMW penalty and Kazuki shifting to the dirty side, he lost position to the heavily fuelled Button on the first lap.
Nico's drive through penalty incurred after his first stop might not have been so compromising had the safety car not intervened. He had sufficient time advantage to have not lost position had the field not been artificially bunched up, but in the event, the double disadvantage consigned him to rear. From this position a good finish was unachievable despite a variation in his strategy to try and unlock his situation with an early second stop and a risky long final stint on the option tyre. Kazuki's race was far less eventful, after two routine stops, he had a good battle with Kubica for the last championship point, but equally tasked with defending his position from Raikkonen behind, he was unable to improve on a p9 finish just outside the points.
Q&A With Sam Michael, Technical Director
Q: Describe the atmosphere at AT&T Williams after the Singapore Grand Prix.
SM: The whole team, including the staff at the factory, were really happy with the on-track performance of the FW31 throughout the entire weekend. We knew from our high fuel, long runs on Friday that the car was competitive and that carried through Saturday and Sunday. It was a good demonstration that the design team are developing the 2009 car as fast as any of the other teams.
Q: Even with his drive-through penalty, where could Nico have finished the race had there not been a Safety Car period?
SM: Most likely, third behind Vettel, but he then would have inherited second place following Vettel's penalty which came later on in the race. On pure pace, Lewis, Nico and Sebastian had the podium sewn up before the Safety Cars.
Q: Relative to the opposition, the pace of the FW31 improved significantly on Saturday. What did you change on the car?
SM: Because it's a street circuit, the track was fairly green at the start of the session. Once some cars had gone out and laid some rubber, the circuit improved significantly which helped. We also fine tuned the aero and mechanical parts of the set-up, both of which helped improve our performance.
Q: Had you expected the car to be so competitive around the Marina Bay circuit?
SM: I expected Nico to be in the top five, so getting into the top three in qualifying was a bonus. Although his performance in Q2 was great, I was personally much more impressed by his strong lap times during the race.
Q: Yet again Kazuki just missed out on a points finish. Was this one of his stronger races of the season?
SM: Yes, it was certainly and it was a shame that he missed out on a points finish when the car was so strong.
Q: Tyre wear proved critical all weekend. How did the super-soft rubber hold up on the FW31?
SM: We didn't have any issues with tyre wear. We did have some small graining on the rear tyre with the super-soft, but only for a few laps before it started to clean up again.
Q: Do you expect the team to be as competitive at Suzuka next weekend?
SM: I expect us to be competitive, but I'm not sure if we will be as strong as we were in Singapore. We're bringing some more upgrades to the FW31 for the race and our target will definitely be points having missed out on them this weekend.