Exclusive Q&A - Williams Kazuki Nakajima 12 Feb 2009
Last month at the Algarve Motor Park, Williams Kazuki Nakajima managed to complete just one lap in the newly-launched FW31, before rain and hail forced the Portuguese track to close. Its no wonder then that Nakajima was eager to carry out some proper running, as he climbed back into the cockpit in Jerez on Wednesday. And after covering 125 laps over the course of the session, the Japanese driver is cautiously optimistic that his new charge wont let him down as he targets a fruitful 2009 season
Q: Kazuki, your first run in the FW31 at the Algarve test was cut short because of poor weather. After your first proper taste of the car in Jerez, what are your first impressions?
Kazuki Nakajima: As I had almost no impression from the Algarve test - I did one lap and then the poor weather conditions stopped me - Wednesday was my first real encounter with the new car. I feel quite comfortable, but performance wise it is still too early to say, as we dont have a real benchmark and dont know what the other teams are doing. And I am sure we will develop the car further, up until the Melbourne grid. So it was basically a test run, with a car that has all the technical requirements for 09. And well take it from there. We have a very good level of reliability - so I would say it is looking very promising.
Q: Have you been running with KERS?
KN: No. To be honest, so far, I have never run a car with KERS. We once had KERS on the car but we didnt use it - I never pushed that button. So I havent got any impression regarding KERS. The development process of KERS in the team is still ongoing, but I can assure that everybody is pushing really hard to have it ready as early as possible. But for the moment, I cannot say when we will be able to run it properly.
Q: The addition of KERS has meant several drivers have had to lose weight over the winter. Did you lose any kilos? And if so, what did you do?
KN: My weight is quite similar, Ive probably lost two kilos. But Ive never been one of the drivers with a weight issue, as I would judge myself to be a lighter weight compared to other drivers. And this could well be an advantage when we run KERS. If I lost weight, then it was because I was training heavily over the winter to raise my fitness levels.
Q: Is it the same car as the one rolled-out at the Algarve test or has the team made some changes over the last three weeks?
KN: It is the same car, although the front nose has been modified since we launched it.
Q: It is six weeks until the Melbourne race, are the teams preparations well underway?
KN: Yes, we are running to schedule and the next tests will see some updates coming, on the aero side in particular. So we will be up and ready for the first race.
Q: What is your main focus at this test?
KN: Basically to put a lot of mileage on the car. I need the mileage as well, as it is the first time that I have driven the new car properly. From that point of view, the testing is going pretty well. Another focus we have is to do with the slick tyres but that is a bit difficult, as they are not running properly in the current temperature, and so we always get a lot of graining at the rear. But that should improve over the next two days as the temperature will be going up. Also on our agenda was to do a race simulation, with pit stops and everything, so that we get into race mode again.
Q: Did you experience any teething problems while carrying out the race simulation?
KN: We had some minor issues like a sensor problem, but that is no big deal. I can say that it was going really well.
Q: Most of the drivers are worried that the wide front wing could be a problem at the start, especially for those at the back of the grid. Do you share their fears?
KN: Yeah, the wider front wing could be crucial at the first corner, as there is a risk it could get broken. But then, aside from the guy who runs in front, this is the same situation for everybody. But I am sure we will all get used to it very quickly. During testing, as nobody was running in front of me, it doesnt make any difference, as I dont see it. But it does make quite a big difference in terms of downforce.
Q: You are heading into your second Formula One season. Does it make everything easier, now you are familiar with all the procedures and tracks?
KN: Well, Formula One is never easy, but compared to last year I can be a bit more relaxed, as now I can totally focus on driving.
Q: Japanese companies have been cutting back their involvement in motorsport. Do you think the Japanese have lost their passion for racing?
KN: No, I dont think so, but it is the financial crisis that has forced those decisions. Should the economic climate recover, I hope that they all will come back. But that will not be so easy as they then will have lost a lot of technical experience. But the Japanese race fans are still as enthusiastic as ever.