Williams' technical director Sam Michael said he was pleased with the British team's performance in last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, adding his conviction that there is more to come from both drivers over the final two races on the 2009 F1 calendar.
Following an error-free race at Suzuka, which saw German star Nico Rosberg pick up four points for fifth place – the young German star's eleventh points-scoring finish from 15 races this year – Michael believes the Grove-based outfit is looking strong and has what it takes to make an impact in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Despite sitting just sixth in the constructors' world championship, he argued that both Rosberg and team-mate Kazuki Nakajima can be competitive in Interlagos.
“We expect to be competitive,” he asserted. “The season is drawing to a close now, so we need to be scoring as many points as possible. Our chances of doing that in Brazil are good.”
The Australian blamed both Friday's wet conditions and Saturday's succession of stoppages in Japan for preventing Williams from improving further upon a disappointing outing in Singapore a week earlier in which both drivers had finished outside of the points. He explained that the team had been unable to make all the changes they had wanted to due to the minimal amount of track time enjoyed by Rosberg and Nakajima.
“Obviously Friday's wet weather affected us quite a lot, although it was the same for everyone,” he reflected. “We had some new parts with us for Japan, as well as some alternative set-ups which we wanted to try out, so the time in which we had to do that was limited. When you lose as much track time as we did on Friday, you simply have to re-prioritise and inevitably drop some items from your list.”
Although the weather improved on Saturday, Michael said Suzuka's unforgiving reputation in producing casualties did not help the team's cause. No fewer than five crashes in the space of the hour-long qualifying session resulted in three red flags – and badly interrupted both Rosberg and Nakajima's running schedule.
“The flags had a considerable influence on qualifying,” he went on, “because we were concentrating on the 'prime' tyre at the time. To do that, you need to be able to do multiple laps. When the session time is lost, your runs – and therefore your qualifying – are compromised.”
Michael also rejected suggestions, finally, that Nakajima's strategy had prevented the home hero from doing better in front of his partisan supporters.
“It's always going to be a difficult race starting from 15th,” he opined. “We went for the one-stop strategy banking on something happening which could affect his position, but it didn't so we couldn't capitalise on it.”