The Williams team is hoping that venturing into the unknown at the European Grand Prix can help revive its fortunes after struggling to match its flying start to the 2008 season in Australia.
Since Nico Rosberg took third place behind friend and former team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the streets of Melbourne, Williams' fortunes have faded, with the team now lying seventh in the constructors' championship, just ahead of the struggling Honda outfit. However, two brand new venues lie among the seven remaining rounds, and the entire Grove team is hoping that starting from scratch in its preparations for Valencia will enable it to reclaim a place in the battle for points.
“For all the teams, everyone is starting at zero more or less, with the track, the drivers, the set-up and everything,” Rosberg noted in a team podcast, “It's going to be a big challenge for everybody to get the best out of [the circuit] as quickly as possible. It is going to be a really interesting race.”
The European Grand Prix, having been decamped from the Nurburgring to the east coast of Spain, follows Formula One's three-week summer 'break', a period in which there is no on-track testing. As a result, the ten teams will be busy preparing themselves 'at home', using simulations and calculations to try and give themselves a headstart when they arrive in Valencia.
“We started doing some initial mapping of the circuit several months ago, from architect plans and FIA information,” chief operations engineer Rod Nelson reveals, “We created a rough map of the circuit and then we ran our simulation around it to see things like aero levels and look at the potential for high brake wear or what kind of demands the circuit will put on the tyres.
“In the case of aero levels, we can make new parts to suit that particular circuit and then, as you come nearer the time, you can get more information from the organisers and the FIA and you just build up the picture and refine the simulation. However, nothing beats walking around the circuit, looking at the kerbs, the amount of run-off area, how close you are to the wall.”
Williams has also been able to map out the circuit on its driver simulator, allowing Rosberg and rookie team-mate Kazuki Nakajima to get an idea of where the road goes, work out the optimum line and envisage potential passing places. As Nelson said, however, there is no substitute for 'being there', and Rosberg is keen to translate the data in front of him into actual miles on track.
“I'm going to watch the onboard from some of the GT racing to get a good idea of the track, but [until we get to Valencia itself] it's really taking a guess on the set-up, comparing [the track] with other street circuits like Monaco. From then, we'll just have to take it step-by-step through the weekend."
Although he has fared well on street circuits through his career, the German crashed out of May's Monaco Grand Prix, something he will be looking to avoid in Valencia.