18 March 2014
Australian Grand Prix: Smiles as Williams shows extent of F1 progress
Williams showed the difference a year can make as its doubled its 2013 points tally in the first F1 outing of 2014.
Williams' performance across the Australian Grand Prix was in start contrast to its fortunes from just twelve months ago and chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson admitted that it was a nice feeling to have.
The Grove team, for all its storied history, accumulated just five points from the 19 races in 2013, but left Melbourne with double that tally even though one of its cars failed to get beyond the first corner of the 2014 season-opener.
The performance of both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas through the early part of the weekend underlined what had been seen in pre-season testing, with Williams benefitting from both its new relationship with engine partner Mercedes and a lot of work on the design of the FW36 to run amongst the leading contenders in free practice. Only when qualifying ran in wet conditions did the team come a little unstuck, but Nelson believes that it could still have been a contender for silverware.
“This should have been a podium car here – it's there or thereabouts,” he insisted, “[The result might be] frustrating for Felipe and Valtteri, but it's a big relief for the guys who were here last year. They've got big smiles!
“There have been a lot of changes in the team and it's working really, really well as a unit. The relationship we've got with Mercedes really helps that too – they've got a big input into the performance of the car now. Not just because they've got a good engine, but also in running the car and running the ERS systems. It's very satisfying.”
Acknowledging that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the FW36, progress that will be especially important with the likes of Red Bull working hard overcome the deficiencies of its own car and close the gap to the front of the field, Nelson admitted that the qualifying situation was frustrating if not necessarily a cause for enormous concern.
“We got the calls right, but we've got a bit of an issue with the wet,” he conceded, “We've got two drivers who can drive in the wet, so that's our problem, and we're concentrating on it now as we've got a car that can obviously do fairly well in the dry.
“We've got some work to do there, but I'm not sitting here thinking we've got a major problem in this area and we have to throw a lot of resources at it - which wouldn't have been the case twelve months ago.
“To be honest, were probably running a little bit light [on downforce] and that's part of the [wet weather problem]. On top of that, the characteristics of the car didn't lend themselves to wet running as much as they could do, and maybe we could have made better compromises. We expected there to be a dry race, and expected a high rate of attrition, but that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - in fact, I expected multiple safety cars and not us to cause the only one in the race!
Conceding that the cooling-aero trade-off had probably been influenced by a change in conditions between the first two days of the meeting, Nelson remained confident that the team would continue to learn
“One issue we did have with cooling here was that the wind direction changed quite significantly overnight between Friday and Saturday and the leaves, which had blown to one side and settled against the barrier, blew back across the track and we picked up a lot of them on Saturday morning. We probably scared ourselves a little bit knowing that there would be another 90-degree wind change overnight for the race. We ended up with a lot of leaves in the ducts and took the conservative approach to put a bit more cooling on the car.
“But that's life and you don't always get it right. We have to look at the compromises we made and see if we could have done it differently.”
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
the conversation - Add your comment
Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.