Q&A with Williams drivers Rosberg and Nakajima
Williams endured a tough 2008 campaign, finishing the constructors' championship in eighth place, and finishing outside the points on regular occasions. However, having sacrificed the development of their 2008 machine to focus on 2009, they are hoping for an improvement in fortunes, and at the team's media day in late February, race drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima talked about the challenges ahead.
Q: What are you expecting from the team this season?
Nico Rosberg: The rule changes are a fantastic thing for us. We've started from scratch and come up with lots of innovative new ideas. When you are given a whole new set of rules to work from it really does give you an opportunity to go away and do something special. You have to be ingenious. We have lots of great people in our aero and design departments and I have a lot of faith in their abilities. As a really strong team in general, this is a great opportunity for everyone at Williams to show what we can do.
Kazuki Nakajima: I agree with Nico's comments, the rule changes provide a good opportunity for us. It's too early to work out where everyone is; we will have to wait until we get to Melbourne to see how the land lies, but the team have done a good job over the winter and there is definitely a positive atmosphere at the factory, so I'm looking forward to the new season.
Q: How different are this year's cars to last year's?
NR: Driving-wise, this year's cars aren't particularly different. What has changed is the balance of the car. Relative to last year, we're experiencing more oversteer in the slow speed corners and that is the one main thing that will make a difference to lap time. So, if you can get more grip in those corners, and you're going to have to adapt your driving style to achieve that, then that's where you're going to make up the time.
KN: There is also a difference in the cockpit with the KERS boost button and the adjustable front wing flap button. We can change the wing from between 0° and 6° and that will really help when we're following another car. It's a very interesting and useful device.
Q: Can you talk about what's it like being behind the wheel now – how much more mental capacity do you need over a lap with all the new controls at your disposal?
NR: The changes in the cockpit are one of the biggest changes the drivers face this year. We have a lot more to do now. You can use the KERS button every lap so it gives the drivers a lot to think about. Then there are also buttons for the diff, the brake balance, the flap, the radio, the drink - there's a lot going on! In my father's car in the team's museum, there's a steering wheel and a gear lever, that's it!
Q: With the front wings considerably wider this year, will you have to be more cautious?
KN: I think we will just have to get used to the difference. We will need to be a bit more cautious in the first few races while we're doing that, but I'm sure everyone will get used to them fairly quickly.
Q: Williams is a team with a strong history but it hasn't been performing at its optimum for a few years. Do you feel the pressure?
NR: I feel it, of course. It's a team that really breathes racing. It's amazing that every person in the factory, whatever their role is, puts just so much effort into what they're doing. Everyone's expectations are so high and personal expectations particularly so. When they're not winning, you can really feel that around the place.
Q: Nico, what are your objectives for this season?
NR: For me, this is a crucial year. I want success, that's what I race for. By 2010 at the latest I want to be in a winning car and I really hope that will be with Williams. It would be great to be a part of a successful Williams team.
Q: Nico, your contract is up at the end of this year, any comment to make on that?
NR: I'm not thinking about my contract at the moment. I want to concentrate on the season ahead. At the moment, I am also completely fascinated by all of the new technology so understanding that is taking up all of my attention.
Q: Nico, it's clear you're impatient for success. Do you feel you should be further up the grid?
NR: It's just the way it is. Some drivers get to the top quicker than others. And there's an element of luck about it and getting the right car at the right time.
Q: Have you questioned your ability?
NR: It's not an easy thing coming to a race track, driving as fast as you can and still feeling you are nowhere. Knowing how to handle that and getting the best out of what you have is an important learning curve. My goal is clear and I'm going to give it my all to get there as soon as possible.
Q: Kazuki, you are the only Japanese driver on the grid and you now have another year under your belt. What are your goals for 2009?
KN: This is also a crucial year for me. It's too early to talk about the car and where we are performance-wise, so I am really concentrating on myself and making sure that I'm preparing as best I can. I learnt a lot last year and I will be drawing upon that experience this year. Specifically, my main goals will be race consistency and to gain a deeper understanding of both the car and the tracks.
Q: The chance to get good results in Formula One is notoriously difficult. What did you learn from your experiences last year?
NR: The most important thing is to learn from the mistakes you make and to progress. I had four opportunities for a good result last year, two worked out and two didn't. The only one that really frustrated me was Monaco, conditions were difficult and I messed up.
Q: Are you bringing any new elements to your approach this year?
NR: I'm always looking to get the best from myself in my training in order to become the best possible racing driver. Fitness has always been an important issue in Formula One and none more so than this year with the introduction of KERS. Because of the additional weight KERS brings to the car, I've concentrated on my weight more than ever over this winter. I wouldn't put a number on how many kilos I've lost, but I've been quite strict with myself food-wise and been careful about how much muscle training I've done to ensure I haven't bulked up.
Q: What are the most important requirements of being a good racing driver?
NR: Intelligence, awareness, quick thinking, positivity and the ability to drive creatively are all important. Talent is the most important thing though and the key to that is good hand-eye co-ordination and understanding the fastest way to get from A to B. It's an ability.
Q: How much time do you spend at the factory and is that important to you?
NR: I live in Monaco so I probably visit once a month. Because I don't get over as much as I'd like, I always try and make it a long visit. When I do come over, I'll take time to wander round and see everyone. Every time I've done that recently there seems to be a good atmosphere around the place which is great as it gives me a real boost for when I go out on track.
KN: I live in Oxford so I spend a lot of time at the factory. Mainly I'll come in to spend time with my engineers and to use the simulator, which is more important than ever now with the testing restrictions. In the past two weeks, I've been at Williams pretty much everyday so, in answer to your question, a lot! And, like Nico, I also feel that positive atmosphere in the factory.
Q: How useful is the simulator?
KN: We have all the tracks loaded into our simulator so I'm currently spending a lot of time on it preparing for Australia and Malaysia, which is great to be able to do. There was a bit of work done to it over the winter to adjust for the new rules, but now it is almost identical to the car on the track so I'm using it for set-ups and race simulations.
Q: Williams have faced a tough winter with the current financial situation. And the news about RBS must be disappointing for the team?
NR: The RBS contract expires at the end of 2010 anyway so I don't really understand what the problem is. The good news is it that we still have two more years with a very good partner. That's the thing about Formula One, sponsors come and go and we always have to find new ones. It's unfortunate, but it's not a huge concern for the team. Williams is financially healthy at the moment. It was before the rule changes and is probably more so now, so there are no concerns in that area.
Q: Kazuki, how do you feel about Honda leaving the sport?
KN: For the Japanese Formula One fans, it's a real shame. We will all miss Honda because they've achieved so much success in the sport. But I think because of their current situation their withdrawal was unavoidable. They could always come back though.
Q: What are you going to do with all the extra days you'll now have when you can't test between races?
NR: I've applied to university! No, just kidding! I came to this sport because I wanted to drive racing cars and the funny thing is that's the smallest part of my job!
KN: I'll be in that simulator as much as I can! Source: Williams F1