It has been a full five races since Nico Rosberg and Williams last graced the top ten on the starting grid in a grand prix, but the young German proved that talent can sometimes triumph over adversity by dragging his underperforming FW30 to ninth place in qualifying in Valencia this weekend.
Indeed, the last time Rosberg troubled the points-scorers in Formula 1 was longer ago still – in Turkey back in May, and even then it was just a sole marker for eighth position – but the inaugural GP2 Series Champion called on all of his street fighting skills to figure strongly around the new, harbour-side Juan Carlos I Marina circuit that will play host to today's European Grand Prix.
“It's been a few races since we managed to get into the top ten,” the 23-year-old reflected, “so this is a good result for us. We'd obviously always want to do better, but this shows we've made a step in the right direction and that's satisfying.
“We had a better understanding of where we had to improve, so we've made those changes which gave us a more competitive car. We have a good strategy for the race, so anything is possible. [Qualifying] has been positive, which gives me hope for points.”
Team-mate Kazuki Nakajima was unlucky not to join Rosberg in the final Q3 shoot-out, the Japanese rookie just under a tenth of a second adrift of the sister Williams and ultimately missing the cut by a scant hundredth of a second in a fiercely closely-packed field – leaving him eleventh.
“It was a good qualifying for us,” the 23-year-old acknowledged, “as both cars are close in the midfield. It was a shame to miss out on Q3, but actually P11 is not a bad place to start the race from because we can select our fuel level. I'll also be on the clean side of the track so, all-in-all, it was a positive qualifying session for us.”
Indeed, in the battle for the coveted fourth spot in the constructors' standings – in which Williams currently trails Toyota by 19 points, Renault by 15 and Red Bull Racing by eight – the fact that the Grove-based outfit is the second-best placed of the four teams on the starting grid for the race can only be encouraging news.
“It's good to have at least one car in Q3, which we've missed for quite some races,” summarised the multiple former world championship-winning concern's director of engineering Patrick Head. “Both drivers did a good job.
“Unfortunately, Kazuki just missed out on his first Q3 by the smallest of margins. The important thing now is to prepare for the race and make sure we're happy with our strategy. We're looking forward to it.”