Williams Indy debrief
The AT&T Williams had a disappointing end to their North American campaign when a mechanical failure deprived the team of a points finish despite running a strategy and showing the pace to maintain the competitive form shown in Montreal a week prior.
When the team ran out in Friday’s morning practice session, both cars immediately found a positive balance despite the track being green. Wurz picked up where Nakajima had left off in the afternoon session but unfortunately lost significant track time when a gearbox oil leak intervened. In summary, the day was spent on routine activities such as mechanical set-up and deriving optimum wing levels and ran broadly to plan, with the team assessing early on that a one-stop plan was certainly feasible from a tire degradation perspective. The only downside to the day’s activities was the lack of track time afforded to Alex Wurz.
On Saturday, with the changing track conditions, the drivers reported less confidence with the balance despite the early progress made on Friday. Some last minute changes were made to roll stiffness, but going into the qualifying session, neither driver was quite as confident as they had been a day previously, which ultimately reflected in their qualifying performance.
In the event, Alex was unlucky not to make it through to Q2 by a small margin and should he have made the cut, there was a fair chance he could have made some additional progress among those graduating to the second qualifying session. He would line up on Sunday in P17. Meantime, Nico did progress into Q2, but fared no better than P14. The compromise from a disappointing session was the freedom to determine fuel load and race strategy, with the team opting to one stop both cars on Sunday.
Come the race, both cars took to the grid on the soft tires and encouragingly, made a pair of competitive starts, an area where the team had made significant progress in recent races. Despite both carrying significant fuel loads, Nico moved up to P9 by the end of the second lap and Alex had also gained five places to P12.
However, Alex’s strategy was compromised by his start position which saw him caught behind Liuzzi’s slower Toro Rosso for the first 37 laps of the race. When the Italian eventually pitted, there was insufficient clear track time for Alex to advance his cause beyond P10 where he eventually finished.
Nico’s higher start position paid dividends and allowed him to attack more effectively and he climbed to P6 as his one-stop strategy began to pay dividends, overhauling Trulli and Webber in the process as they made their second stops and setting the quickest one stop pace and running no more than nine tenths of a second behind the fastest car on the circuit, no mean achievement with the fuel loads and the associated tire degradation he was managing.
However, five laps from the flag, an oil leak caught fire on the exhausts and the ensuing fire burnt through the throttle harnesses, bringing his FW29 to a standstill.
“It was very disappointing that Nico’s exceptional work in the race was compromised so close to the flag and in the process, three valuable points were lost,” said Sam Michael. “On the positive side, we are showing consistently competitive race pace, but we still need to start from a stronger grid position and of course ensure 100% reliability to really allow our competitive form to come through.” Williams F1