Having set the pace throughout free practice for this weekend's 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Nico Rosberg admitted that he was 'disappointed' with fifth place in qualifying – but then, he reasoned, it's not exactly a bad thing to be disappointed with fifth.
After proving fast and consistent – but never consistently the fastest – in pre-season testing, Williams stunned the F1 paddock with a one-two in FP1 before its young German star went on to maintain that position of supremacy right the way through to the start of qualifying.
However, the Grove-based concern's engineering director Patrick Head had warned that the qualifying hour may well paint a different picture of the various teams' levels of competitiveness – and indeed Rosberg could lap only seventh-quickest in Q1 and a more encouraging fourth in Q2, before going on to seal fifth spot in the final reckoning, almost eight tenths of a second shy of Jenson Button's pole position for Brawn GP.
The 23-year-old, however, insisted that the team remains in sharper form than it had believed to be arriving Down Under – and he dropped a hint that he may be running a little heavier than the cars around him as he bids to repeat his maiden rostrum appearance at Albert Park from this time twelve months ago.
“I think it is a good thing to be a bit disappointed with fifth place!” joked the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg. “Our qualifying session itself was consistent with everything else I have experienced so far, and the car has been nice to drive all weekend.
“From the work we have done today, we are in a good position to start the race – perhaps better than we would have imagined when we arrived here. We are among the fastest cars, but it will be interesting to see what fuel load everybody is running.
“The start tomorrow of course will be important, but thankfully we will don't have too many cars running KERS close by us and possibly challenging us off the line. The big factor tomorrow will be tyres, but I think we have a good strategy and positive reliability, so we have all the tools to do a good job in the race.”
Team-mate Kazuki Nakajima in the sister FW31 has also shown well this weekend, and was confident of joining Rosberg in the top-ten shoot-out until an error on his final flying lap in Q2 saw the Japanese ace – who finished the 2008 race in sixth place, his best result in the top flight to-date – crucially miss the cut and left him down in 13th spot on the grid.
“The car was good enough to make it into Q3 today,” the 24-year-old rued, “but I made a small mistake and it cost me quite a few places. There is, however, plenty to consider tomorrow and I think I still have a good opportunity, so it will be important to concentrate and get absolutely everything right. As it is the first race I think there will be plenty going on, which will make it exciting but challenging.”
“We have had a solid start to our preparations for tomorrow's race,” summarised the former multiple world championship-winning concern's technical director Sam Michael. “Both cars have performed reliably and we have managed to find reasonable pace. Nico used this to best advantage today, but an error in Q2 meant that Kazuki was not able to progress into the top ten.”