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Q&A with Williams’ Rod Nelson 19 Oct 2009

Rod Nelson (GBR) Williams Chief Operations Engineer. Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday 6 June 2008. World © Sutton Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 17 October 2009 Nakajima and Kobayashi side by side Nakajima pushes too hard and slides off track and into the tyre barrier Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 crashed out of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil,  Sunday, 18 October 2009

Williams had looked very strong in Saturday’s rain-swept qualifying session at Interlagos. Unfortunately, when sunshine arrived for Sunday’s race they were always likely to struggle, thanks to a set-up biased towards wet-weather running. As it turned out, set-up was largely an irrelevance, as a gearbox failure caused Nico Rosberg’s first retirement of 2009 while a brush with compatriot Kamui Kobayashi put Kazuki Nakajima into the wall. Chief operations engineer Rod Nelson reflects...

Q: How competitive was the FW31 at Interlagos?
Rod Nelson:
The FW31 showed particularly good pace in the wet, but was also competitive in the dry race.

Q: Did you have any tyre issues in the wet or the dry?
RN:
Most drivers had problems with the intermediates; struggling to get the fronts to work in the wet and dry conditions.

Q: Saturday marked the longest qualifying session in F1 history. How tough were the conditions?
RN:
Track conditions were very poor with a combination of rivers running across the track and standingwater which was causing aqua planning.

Q: Nico was fastest in Q1 and Q2, yet he qualified seventh. What caused the drop-off in performance?
RN:
We expected to be more competitive in the wet and less so in the dry partly due to the compromises in car set-up that we made prior to qualifying. The FIA’s decision to wait until the rain had cleared certainly didn’t help us.

Q: Nico suffered his first DNF of the season on Sunday. What caused his retirement and how much warning did you get?
RN:
We were aware of a gearbox issue from early on in the race. As there was no easy fix and we weren’t aware of any system degradation, we carried on running. Around Nico’s pitstop we saw a serious deterioration in performance so we retired the car to avoid further damage, or a safety issue.

Q: Kazuki also retired from the race; please sum up his performance in qualifying and the race.
RN:
Kazuki was also very competitive in wet qualifying but, as with Nico, we saw this fade a little as the circuit dried out. In the race, he was in a reasonable position but there was some confusion with Kobayashi moving across him out of the pit lane exit that resulted in an accident.

Q: The new Yas Island circuit in Abu Dhabi comes next. How is the team preparing for this
final race of the season?
RN:
We have fully mapped the circuit which allows us to run computer models to assess general characteristics, for example brake wear, likely tyre performance, pitstop times, optimum rear wing level etc. This has also allowed us to produce a 3D representation of the circuit which the drivers can use in the simulator to refine their driving and work on optimising set-up before the car even turns a wheel.