After three races in which it has invariably featured up at the sharp end of proceedings in 2009, Williams has just 3.5 points on the board – poor return on performances that have merited considerably better. Sam Michael is adamant that it is high time to turn pace and potential into on-track results – beginning with this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir.
Behind the wheel of the promising, Toyota-powered FW31, Nico Rosberg has topped six of the nine free practice sessions to-date, never once qualified outside of the top seven and even led the opening 15 laps in the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this month – and comfortably to boot, rarely coming under any undue pressure from the Toyota of Jarno Trulli or Brawn GP of Formula 1 World Championship leader Jenson Button behind.
For all that, though, the young German – and Williams too for that matter – has just a sixth place in Melbourne and eighth in the rains of Sepang to his name, with the weather and a number of misguided strategy calls last time out in Shanghai conspiring to keep the inaugural GP2 Series Champion out of the points in the Chinese Grand Prix, with an early pit-stop under the initial safety car period and a gamble on intermediates in the closing stages failing to pay off.
“It wasn't our best performance,” reflected the multiple former world championship-winning outfit's technical director Sam Michael. “As a team, we made mistakes which we will be investigating this week at the factory. We had a link into the Chinese government's weather information on the pit wall which was updated every 15 minutes, and we also share a weather radar with the other teams so we have plenty of resource available to us to ensure that the forecast is accurate. We were therefore expecting it to be wet for the duration of the race.
“We thought the safety car would stay out for a much longer time than it did so, if we had to pit late and the Renault and the two Red Bulls had already pitted, we would have ended up behind them. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong call. The decision cost us a couple of positions, but it wasn't the main reason why we didn't perform well in China. In the end, we were just too slow in the wet.
“The intermediates worked well for a few laps and it was starting to look like a really good decision, but then the rain increased slightly and that was enough to hand the advantage back to the drivers on the full wet tyres. We took a risk because we were out of the points anyway.”
Team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, for his part, was fuelled long and struggled with a heavy car for much of the race, enduring several off-piste moments in the adverse conditions as well as a puncture, before drivetrain damage from the differential ended the Japanese ace's efforts eight laps from home. Michael is well aware that the points need to start coming – and fast – before Williams' rivals get their own 'double-decker' diffusers in place and the Grove-based concern's early advantage is wiped out.
“Our long run pace was really good, but we weren't good enough in qualifying,” the softly-spoken Australian concluded. “We have a strong car at the moment and we really need to start capitalising on that and getting some points on the board. The FW31 should work well in Bahrain, so we're looking forward to improving our performance.”