After registering his and the team's best result of the season to-date with the runner-up spot in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix a fortnight ago, Nico Rosberg admits that Williams has returned to 'reality' at Fuji – as Kazuki Nakajima was able to give his partisan supporters little to cheer about in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
After scraping through Q1, Nakajima and Rosberg subsequently fell at the Q2 hurdle, each coming up around half a second short of making the cut. Though the former was understandably pleased to have out-qualified his highly-rated team-mate for only the third time during what has been a quietly impressive maiden campaign in Formula 1, still 14th place on the grid was far from what Nakajima may have hoped for ahead of his first 'home' grand prix.
“After a strong run in the practice sessions that was a difficult qualifying,” the 23-year-old rookie commented, “but we did do our best. I don't think that this afternoon's conditions suited the car that much and some traffic interrupted my last run, which didn't help me either. We now need to prepare a good strategy for tomorrow's race.”
Rosberg too was rather nonplussed by 15th place on the grid – his equal third-worst starting spot of 2008 – and admitted that he had come down to earth again with quite a bump after securing the finest result of his fledgling career in the top flight under the spotlights of Singapore, even if he was keen to point out that the weekend was not lost yet.
“It wasn't very nice to qualify 15th today,” the young German rued, “especially having come from Singapore where I finished on the podium, but that's the reality. We've struggled a bit this weekend, but we were expecting to be less competitive here as we just seem to be missing something on these types of circuits.
“I'm keeping my expectations for the race in-check, particularly if it stays dry, but we could have a better chance of doing well if it rains. I'm happy with my qualifying lap, and Kazuki's been doing a really good job all weekend. He's been a little bit quicker than me and I'm pleased for him as he's in front of his home crowd, but this weekend isn't over yet – we'll see what tomorrow brings.”
Williams' nine points in Singapore – its greatest single haul of the year – also brought the multiple world championship-winning Grove-based outfit to within just two markers of Red Bull Racing in the constructors' battle and five of Scuderia Toro Rosso. Technical director Sam Michael is only-too aware that just a handful of points in the last three races could make a big difference come season's end.
“Obviously this isn't the best track for us,” the softly-spoken Australian acknowledged. “We took both cars through to Q2, but we weren't strong enough to get into Q3 here.
“Fuji delivered a very interesting race last year, so we'll now work towards the most advantageous strategies possible for our positions and see if we can't get something out of the race.”