Kazuki Nakajima has 'grown tremendously' over the course of his rookie season in Formula 1 in 2008, acknowledges Williams – now he needs to improve by just as much again in 2009.
The Japanese ace graduated from the feeder GP2 Series to make his F1 debut in the final race of the 2007 campaign, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. Following an impressive performance, he was kept on for 2008 and – despite colliding with BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica along the way – finished inside the points in sixth place in the curtain-raiser Down Under in Melbourne.
There were further points in Spain, Monaco, Britain and Singapore as the year advanced en route
to 15th position in the final drivers' standings. Though there was admittedly nothing to rival the podiums achieved by highly-rated team-mate Nico Rosberg, ultimately Nakajima came out of the comparison with his head held high, out-qualifying the German on four occasions and making it into the top ten on the grid for the first time for the sport's inaugural night-time grand prix in Singapore in late September.
“Kazuki has had his learning period,” Williams' chief engineer Rod Nelson told Dutch website Formule 1 Race Report
. “When you compare the Nakajima from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, you see right away that he has grown tremendously.”
Indeed, such has been the former Toyota Young Driver Programme member's progress that it was rarely in doubt that his services would be retained at the Grove-based outfit for a second season alongside Rosberg in 2009 when, Nelson makes clear, the goalposts will be shifted again.
“It is just convenient,” the Briton said of the consistency in Williams' line-up, admitting he is 'very pleased' at both drivers staying on-board. “Good or bad, you should always improve compared with the previous season.”