Nico Rosberg could barely contain his enthusiasm for driving around the narrow, tortuous streets of Monte Carlo after the young Williams star had reprised his role as Formula 1's 2009 practice pace-setter by leading the way at the end of the opening day ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix – and there is, he contends, plenty more still to come.
Rosberg has an excellent track record in the Principality – in qualifying at least. In three previous appearances in F1 he has qualified eighth, fifth and sixth respectively, and he raced to a podium finish there en route
to the inaugural GP2 Series crown back in 2005.
The German has never, however, taken the chequered flag any higher than twelfth in the Monaco Grand Prix, and has twice not taken the chequered flag at all. Having endured a run of bad luck thus far this campaign and having seen off his nearest challenger Lewis Hamilton by just over two tenths of a second in FP2 on Thursday, he is hopeful that finally his fortunes may be set to change.
“We had a difficult start to the weekend,” the 23-year-old confessed. “I really didn't feel comfortable in the car because of a simple lack of grip to begin with, so we made plenty of set-up changes and we found a significant improvement.
“By the end of FP2 I was much happier, and I would say there is more in the car as I had traffic and never really had a clean lap. We also suffered no problems or damage to the car, which is a constant issue in Monaco – and let me say, it is great
to drive on this track!”
Kazuki Nakajima, for his part, wound up ninth-quickest on the end-of-day timesheets, albeit more than a second shy of Rosberg's best marker. To his credit, the Japanese F1 sophomore had outpaced the sister Williams earlier on in the morning session, pipping his team-mate to sixth position by just over two hundredths of a second.
“This morning was good,” reported the 24-year-old, “but for reasons we will look at tonight, the afternoon session was a bit difficult in the car. I am hoping we can establish what was happening and use third practice to make sure I am well-prepared for qualifying.”
With the stated objectives of the development of new suspension components on the chassis, short and long-run tyre comparisons and aerodynamic performance analysis with the new package fitted to the Toyota-powered FW31 all completed, the Grove-based outfit's technical director Sam Michael acknowledged that it had been a good day at the office – now to repeat the same form when it matters most, around a circuit where Williams has triumphed on no fewer than three occasions in seasons gone-by.
“Today was a typical first day in Monaco,” summarised the softly-spoken Australian. “We have spent some time looking at the two tyres in the context of a track that is changing hugely compared to a normal track. As a street circuit, all the contaminants are getting cleaned off by the F1 rubber, so it's too early to say where the car is – but all the parts we brought here seem to be working well.”