This morning we pointed to good correlation between wind tunnel and track as a key part of Williams’ progress this season and following this afternoon’s first front-row lockout since 2003 for the team, second-on the-grid Valtteri Bottas confirmed that the success of the stream of upgrades brought to the FW36 so far this year has made the difference.
“We haven’t been making any bad updates,” he said. “If we have brought something it has always worked and that has been a big improvement from last year.”
As our technical expert Mark Gillan said, the major gains in time are currently being made, as ever, aerodynamically and correct correlation between the figures delivered in the wind tunnel and those obtained when the parts are run at the track is crucial to keeping pace with and closing in on rivals. Williams’ ability to obtain good results has seen it make progress more rapidly than many of its rivals.
“We can really put all the energy into the right direction, developing parts and knowing that they will work, so, no energy wasted – that’s good,” added Bottas.
The Finn also hailed the impact made by Pat Symonds at the Grove outfit saying the former Marussia and Renault technical chief is playing a key role in the team’s renaissance.
“I think we can see it in the performance,” said Bottas. “I think the results have shown that he’s been one of the key persons for Williams to come back to closer to the positions where we belong to be in the races. As soon as he arrived, many things started to change and are still changing. Every week, as a team, we are still getting stronger and stronger, so we are definitely on the right way and that is thanks to Pat but also many other people in the team.”
Felipe Massa, who took the 16th pole of his career and his first for almost six years, agreed that the team’s progress has been marked but the Brazilian still deferred to Mercedes dominance so far this year saying that he and Bottas are in for a tough battle tomorrow.
“We e cannot forget what Mercedes has been doing up to now,” he said. “We cannot forget that they didn’t have a clean qualifying as well. For sure, for [at] the moment they are in front. For the moment, they are stronger.”
The Brazilian did, however, sound a further note of optimism. “I hope, during the championship we can close or maybe can even pass (them). This is what we’re always working for, you know. But I think it’s not enough to say that we are there with Mercedes. I think that for the moment we don’t know. For the moment is maybe this track helps us definitely, but we don’t know. I think we will see a very strong Mercedes tomorrow, so we need to be ready for everything, we need to be ready also that finishing behind them is still an incredible job for us.”
Whether the duo can keep Rosberg at bay remains to be seen. Two stops is expected to be the most likely strategy. A one-stop may be considered but with warmer temperatures forecast that is risky. A supersoft, soft, soft race is likely for the front runners including Williams. Those starting beyond tenth, however, such as Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, may try for the reverse, bolting on the supersofts in the final stint for a late blast on low tanks. The success of that gambit will hinge on a team’s belief in its driver’s ability to overtake here.
Rosberg certainly still believes his WO5 Hybrid is good enough to allow him to do that.
“The chances for the race are obviously good from P3,” he said. “It’s more difficult than starting on the front row, of course, but it’s still a good chance there because I think it’s possible to overtake on this track. First stint, also, the tyres are going to degrade massively on the Option, so already there maybe at the end of the stint there’s a little bit of a chance. And I’ll have a good race car for sure.
“It’s a short track here and still we have the fastest car, even today,” he added. “It’s just that I didn’t get that second lap to give it a go and my first lap, the balance was not good. For the race I’m sure I’ll have a good car, so, I think that’s a very small view that we’re taking now: two races, no wins, no pole… or no pole now. But I still think we’re dominant and definitely have the fastest car and I hope it’s going to stay like that for some time to come.”