Nico Rosberg was far from downcast after leading the opening 15 laps of the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang today only to ultimately be classified just eighth in the final reckoning – remaining confident that on Williams' current form, his day will surely come.
Having qualified an impressive fourth, the young German made a superb getaway when the lights went out to vault past the slow-starting front row pairing of Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli and steal the lead into the first corner. Not only that, but he would go on to eke out an advantage of more than three seconds over the pursuing Toyota before making his first pit-stop 15 laps in, and looked in strong shape indeed.
The constantly changing weather conditions and tyre choices, however, would not work in Williams' favour, and despite continuing to feature up inside the top three and well in podium contention at half-distance, when the grand prix was red-flagged just a handful of laps later – as lightning, stiffening winds and a torrential downpour sent a number of drivers spinning off-course – the result was declared and Rosberg found himself down in eighth. There was nonetheless, he reasoned, considerable cause for cheer.
“I took the lead off the start,” related the 23-year-old, who also set the fourth-fastest lap of the race, behind only the Brawn GP duo of Button and Rubens Barrichello and Trulli. “It is a while since Williams have been out front on pure performance, and I have to thank the engineers for that. The car was going really well, and I showed my ability to consistently push on each lap and open the gap to those behind me.
“Then the rain came and unfortunately the situation just didn't go our way, but we got something out of the day and our car is right up there, so we will be looking to get the points we deserve next time out.”
After starting from eleventh, team-mate Kazuki Nakajima in the sister FW31 never truly featured up at the sharp end of proceedings, as the Japanese ace endured an anonymous race, much of which he spent frustrated behind the KERS-equipped Renault of Nelsinho Piquet. He was listed twelfth in the end result.
“I had wheelspin off the line and I dropped quite a few positions to the KERS cars around me,” the 24-year-old rued afterwards. “I ended up behind Piquet and I struggled to get past. This affected my plan as I dropped quite a lot of time behind him, and then of course the weather came along and it was impossible to make a totally correct decision with the changing conditions. It was the right thing ultimately to red-flag the race, and it was no surprise that we didn't re-start.”
“It was a great start from Nico and he continued a good performance in the dry in the first stint,” summarised the Grove-based concern's technical director Sam Michael. “When the weather came, we made the same tyre choices as the cars around us, including the Brawns and Trulli, but they gained more from their stops than us.”