23 September 2015
F1 Japanese Grand Prix: Smedley says Williams has to capitalise in Japan
Williams head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley beleives his team needs to make the most of its Suzuka potential to cement third place in the F1 constructors' table.
Williams needs to make the most of its expected car advantage at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix in order to improve its championship position against its closest rivals.
Valtteri Bottas' fifth place on the streets of Singapore was not enough to prevent Ferrari – which finished 1-3 – and Red Bull, which claimed second with Daniel Ricciardo, from leaving with gains, but Williams' head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley is confident that the Mercedes-powered cars can bounce back at Suzuka.
Bottas was the second best finisher running Mercedes power in Marina Bay, behind the works car of Nico Rosberg, but neither had an answer for Ricciardo or racewinner Sebastian Vettel on a rare off weekend for the Three Pointed Star. Smedley, however, believes that Williams can redress the balance somewhat this weekend.
“I would have thought so,” he said, “The car was really good [in Japan] last year in the dry, if not so much so in the wet. [Suzuka]'s got a good mix of high drag sensitivity, high engine power sensitivity and high speed corners [and] all of those things really suit our car, so I'm expecting it to be a good race for us.
“It's got to be as I think we'll have a possible advantage over the people around us in the championship and we just have to make sure we capitalise on that.”
Williams heads to Japan trailing a seemingly rejuvenated Ferrari by 112 points, but has Red Bull hovering just 59 points off its third place with six races still to run. Despite the Prancing Horse's apparent jump in form last weekend, however, Smedley remains to be convinced that it can be a regular threat to Mercedes, which he believes struggled with its tyres in Singapore, and reckons that Williams too may still be on a par with the Scuderia.
“At Silverstone, I think we were far and away quicker than them, but then we went to Budapest and they were quicker than us – not so much in qualifying, but definitely in the race, when we were suffering with the problem we had in Monaco and at Silverstone in the wet,” he reasoned, “We're understanding that [issue] a lot better and, going back to Hungary now, even with the same car, on the basis of this weekend, we would have done a lot better there and at that type of circuit.
“Since then, we've had three specialist kind of circuits in Belgium, Italy and [Singapore], which don't really represent the norm and I think it will be interesting to see what [Ferrari] is like when we get to Japan – and Russia to a certain extent.
“I'm reasonably confident our car should work quite well around there, although whether or not we have the legs on them, I don't know. Between the two teams, it's going to be about getting everything perfect – as usual.”
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