Q&A with Williams Rosberg and Nakajima 09 Mar 2009
In the midst of Williams preparations for the 2009 season, drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima have been kept pretty busy so far this year. Here the pair, who hope to push the British team to higher than eighth in the standings, review their training so far and reflect on what will be a critical year for both their careers
Q: What are you expecting from the team this season?
Nico Rosberg: The rule changes are a fantastic thing for us. Weve 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 Nicos comments, the rule changes provide a good opportunity for us. Its 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 Im looking forward to the new season.
Q: How different are this years cars to last years?
NR: Driving-wise, this years cars arent particularly different. What has changed is the balance of the car. Relative to last year, were 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 youre going to have to adapt your driving style to achieve that, then thats where youre 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 zero and six degrees and that will really help when were following another car. Its a very interesting and useful device.
Q: Can you talk about whats 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 - theres a lot going on! In my fathers car in the teams museum, theres a steering wheel and a gear lever, thats it!
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 were doing that, but Im sure everyone will get used to them fairly quickly.
Q: Williams is a team with a strong history but it hasnt been performing at its optimum for a few years. Do you feel the pressure?
NR: I feel it, of course. Its a team that really breathes racing. Its amazing that every person in the factory, whatever their role is, puts just so much effort into what theyre doing. Everyones expectations are so high and personal expectations particularly so. When theyre 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, thats 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: Im 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, its clear youre impatient for success. Do you feel you should be further up the grid?
NR: Its just the way it is. Some drivers get to the top quicker than others. And theres an element of luck about it and getting the right car at the right time.
Q: Have you questioned your ability?
NR: Its 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 Im 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. Its too early to talk about the car and where we are performance-wise, so I am really concentrating on myself and making sure that Im 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 racing 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 didnt. 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: Im 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, Ive concentrated on my weight more than ever over this winter. I wouldnt put a number on how many kilos Ive lost, but Ive been quite strict with myself food-wise and been careful about how much muscle training Ive done to ensure I havent 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. Its 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 dont get over as much as Id like, I always try and make it a long visit. When I do come over, Ill take time to wander round and see everyone. Every time Ive 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 Ill 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, Ive 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.
How useful is the simulator?
KN: We have all the tracks loaded into our simulator so Im 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 Im 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 dont really understand what the problem is. The good news is it that we still have two more years with a very good partner. Thats the thing about Formula One, sponsors come and go and we always have to find new ones. Its unfortunate, but its 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, its a real shame. We will all miss Honda because theyve 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 youll now have when you cant test between races?
NR: Ive applied to university! No, just kidding! I came to this sport because I wanted to drive racing cars and the funny thing is thats the smallest part of my job!
KN: Ill be in that simulator as much as I can!