Nico Rosberg has admitted that he was 'absolutely on the limit' in the Bahrain Grand Prix at the weekend – but that his efforts were still good enough only for ninth place, he contended, is a clear indication that Williams are 'simply not quick enough'.
After qualifying ninth, the young German had hoped to gain some positions by dint of running longer than a number of his immediate rivals during the opening stint, but in the event he was unable to stay close enough to the leading pack to benefit. Just over five seconds away from the final points-paying position at the close, it might as well have been an eternity, as Williams' early-season flourish looks already to be sadly over.
“It was not so good,” rued the inaugural GP2 Series Champion. “I was on the limit and really got the best out of it, but we were simply not quick enough. I lost so many places at the start because all of the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) cars came flying past me, which was really shocking because I had a very good start.
“This is just where we are at the moment, so we need to push hard to improve and catch up with the others in front. Just like everyone else, we will have some new parts ready for Barcelona and I hope our package will be competitive.”
Team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, for his part, left Sakhir with the dubious honour of being the only driver to fail to see the chequered flag at the end of 57 laps in the sweltering heat of the desert kingdom – with temperatures climbing as high as 55°C in the cockpit. That may be a testament to the outstanding overall reliability of the 2009 cars, but it was little consolation for the Japanese ace as he remains in search of his first points of the new campaign.
“It was a disappointing race for me,” the 23-year-old concluded. “My start was average, but it was very difficult to defend against the cars around me that had KERS. It was then very close going into the first corner on the second lap, and I damaged my front wing so I had to pit early.
“I came out at the back of the field and from there I couldn't make up any ground. In the end, my oil pressure was spiking so we took the decision to retire the car. The one positive thing is that the car felt good, so we will hopefully do better at the next race.”
The two FW31s set respectively the 15th (Rosberg) and 17th (Nakajima) fastest laps of the grand prix – a sign of just how far Williams has fallen from its front-running form in Australia and Malaysia, when the former threatened the podium and even led for 15 laps. The Grove-based outfit's technical director Sam Michael acknowledged that the rot rapidly needs to be stopped if the former multiple world champions are not to repeat their inexorable slide down the pecking order of previous seasons.
“In Nico's case, we started ninth and finished ninth so we didn't manage to capitalise on the strategy that we had,” summarised the softly-spoken Australian. “He had a good start, but he then lost positions going into turn one so we'll have to look and see what happened there. He then spent the stints where we needed clean air behind traffic. Kazuki had an accident on lap two going into turn one, and that was it for his race. We'll now look ahead to a better performance in Barcelona.”