Exclusive Nakajima Q&A: the next logical step is a podium 18 Dec 2008
With testing to be banned during the season, teams are under pressure to get their 2009 preparations right over the winter. This week at Jerez Williams ran a hybrid version of the FW30, complete with some 09-spec parts, and driver Kazuki Nakajima is pleased with progress. After performing well enough in his debut season to secure a new contract, Nakajima feels confident that podiums could soon be within his reach
Q: Kazuki, you have revealed recently that you are eyeing podium finishes next season. What makes you convinced this will be possible?
Kazuki Nakajima: Well, there are no real facts that make me convinced podiums will be possible - its just the target, because I have finished in the points and the next logical step would be a podium finish. Its basically my own self confidence that tells me that it could be within reach.
Q: The FW30 was a somewhat troubled car over the past season. Does the modified car you have tested this week feel any better?
KN: Actually, not yet. At the moment we are testing a car with the front of the 08 car and the rear with 09 spec, so the balance is not perfect. The feeling is very different with the slick tyres and the downforce for next year, so a real feeling for the car has not yet developed. But when we have the new car for next year its going be totally different. At the moment the rear of the car, plus gearbox, is completely next years design. I would say that more than half of the car is next years car, but as the front is still the old car it lacks balance. Basically we tested some suspension set-ups and were collecting aero data.
Q: How did it feel using the slick tyres whilst driving the modified car? Last week was your first try, so are you used to it by now?
KN: Yeah, Im getting used to it. The feeling is very different. The problem of the car is actually totally different to last years car. We need to rethink a lot but as we have done a lot of mileage lately, the data will be very useful for next years development. What became visible for those already using 09 specs is that we will all have to adjust our driving style to the new regulations. The other thing that became clear is that the slick tyres will be more fun for the drivers - especially when the car is more balanced.
Q: You tested for two days alongside test driver Nico Hulkenberg. What was on your agenda and how much of the 09 spec was already on the car?
KN: Basically it was to find a better set-up for the tyres and next years aero package. In addition to this, we also tested an active front wing, but the major issue was to get used to the tyres.
Q: You have expressed that you were quite satisfied with your 2008 season. Where do you need to improve?
KN: If I have to judge my first season then I would say that I have improved a lot over the course of those 18 races. Even though the car was not really there at the end of the season, I think I was improving. But for sure there is room to enhance my performance in 09. I am hoping to improve my qualifying, but also the race and pit stops could need an overhaul. What I see now as one of the major topics over the next couple of weeks is that we have to work on tyre consistency, especially with the soft compound. After about ten laps, the lap time drops by almost one second so we have to get to terms with this situation. Overall, I would say that my driving style is gentle on the tyres so maybe that will help next season.
Q: What was the most challenging part of your first season in Formula One?
KN: It was not just one thing - it was everything. The environment is so different to all other series. It was a big step from GP2 to F1 as the pressure is much higher and also the work load is much more. It took time - three to four races - and then I started improving.
Q: At least your 2008 performance helped you keep your drive. How much help came from Toyota?
KN: Toyota has given me a lot of help, as I am still a member of Toyotas young driver programme. They have given me a lot of information about all aspects of racing - not only the driving, but also away from the circuits like proper training.
Q: If you earn your stripes next season, could a move to Toyota be a possible scenario for 2010?
KN: Well, if Toyota perform well next year then it could very well be an option. I am quite happy with Williams, but it could be a good fit to see a Japanese driver in a Japanese team. But lets wait and see how 09 develops before making plans for 2010.