After unrewarding races in China and Bahrain, the team brought home one point from Europe's opening round at Barcelona at the weekend courtesy of Nico Rosberg's 8th place finish. Kazuki Nakajima's race was compromised from the outset after a first...
After unrewarding races in China and Bahrain, the team brought home one point from Europe's opening round at Barcelona at the weekend courtesy of Nico Rosberg's 8th place finish. Kazuki Nakajima's race was compromised from the outset after a first lap collision forced a premature first pitstop for a new nose.
Friday's two practice sessions were dominated by set-up work as the drivers spent time bedding in new aero components brought to Spain as part of the team's upgrade package. All the new parts behaved as expected. The team also ran through its usual tyre evaluation programme with the prime and options, with Nico carrying out comparisons on long runs, while Kazuki concentrated on short runs in readiness for qualifying. The team struggled to get much valuable running in during Saturday morning's third practice session as the lower ambient temperatures somewhat affected the tyres' operating window.
Data from practice suggested that both cars should make it into Q3 on Saturday afternoon. However, a slower than expected pace during both drivers' early Q1 runs forced the team to use up the preferred option tyres for Q2 to ensure a place in Q3. The decision paid off for Nico as he made it into Q3 and at the end of the round claimed P9, but Kazuki narrowly missed out on a place in the top ten shoot out by several hundredths of a second, leaving him in P11 on the grid for Sunday's race.
Both drivers started the race on a conventional two stop strategy and fuelled relatively long for their first stints. Having become embroiled in the first lap incident, however, Kazuki's strategy, and indeed race, was compromised from the outset as an early pitstop for a new nose put him at the back of the field and out of contention for a points' paying finish. An uneventful remainder of the race saw Kazuki conclude the Spanish GP in 13th. Nico's Barcelona experience wasn't without issue either as inconsistent handling cost him a place to Alonso and traffic ahead of his second stop handed over a position in the order to Heidfeld leaving him in P8 at the finish line but with another point on the scoreboard. The team now look ahead to Monaco, a completely different proposition to Barcelona, and another opportunity to generate some much needed points.
Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q: Please sum up the team's performance over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.
SM: Nico secured a point for the team but we really need to be getting both cars in the points more regularly than we are if we're going to improve upon our position in the Constructors' standings. There were some positives from this weekend in that it was encouraging to be only 0.3seconds off the quickest time during Q2 in qualifying, particularly on a track where aerodynamics are the key, and the upgrade package which we brought to the race worked as expected.
Q: What upgrades were there on the FW31, and how did they perform?
SM: We brought various aerodynamic upgrades to Spain for both cars as part of our planned development programme. Our base performance step was good and we verified that in practice.
Q: In the race, how much damage was there to Kazuki's car after the crash at Turn 2?
SM: That incident caused damage to Kazuki's front wing end plate so we had to pit him for a new front wing assembly. Because the safety car was deployed, it fortunately didn't cost him as much time as it could have done.
Q: Nico's lap times were a bit erratic during the race. Was there a reason for this?
SM: Nico's lap times were somewhat inconsistent, yes, and we are now looking carefully through all of the data and bodywork parts to determine what caused that.
Q: Where in the overall pecking order do you now see the pace of the FW31?
SM: Team order is always clear by your position in the Constructors' standings. Even if we think we have a faster car than how we currently stand in that table, the Constructors' order is what the overall performance of our team is measured by.
Q: What changes will there be to the car in Monaco, and what are your hopes for that race?
SM: We will be bringing more upgrades to the car for Monaco, as will all of the other teams. Our target is obviously to score more points as we haven't had the conversion rates we would have liked in recent races. We are typically fast on street circuits, so we are looking forward to getting the best out of the FW31 at Monte Carlo.