Compared to their recent F1 outings, Williams had a very successful weekend in Valencia. Both cars got through to Q3 on Saturday, and Rubens Barrichello finished the race fourth. The only downside for the team was a retirement for Nico Hulkenberg.
Technical director Sam Michael said this upturn in fortunes was a combination of updates and a circuit that suited the car. “The improved performance of FW32 was due to the whole car package, and perhaps the specific nature of the Valencia circuit that suited our car characteristics,” explained Michael. However, he is not complacent. “While we are heading in the right good direction, we and our partners still have plenty more work to do,” he added.
Rubens Barrichello had Williams’ interpretation of the McLaren F-duct at his disposal in Valencia, a device the team refer to as the blown rear wing. “We had an installation issue with Nico’s seat, but we’ll have that sorted out for Silverstone,” said Michael, explaining why Hulkenberg wasn’t provided with the same update. “That said, the blown rear wing is still an R&D item, so it suited the team to have the cars split in Valencia,” he added. “Given that we had some issues with the component during the race on Rubens car, it was the right call.”
“As well as some other teams, we fitted new engines to both cars for the European Grand Prix. Cosworth are still on a rising curve with the engine and they’ve been working hard to find improvements within the engine homologation regulations. They are making good progress.”
Hulkenberg’s problem looked from the outside to be engine related. A large plume of smoke was seen from the rear of his car a few laps before he was forced to retire. However, Sam Michael reveals the true cause:
“It was a cracked exhaust tailpipe. We are still investigating the cause, but we are really sorry that the failure deprived Nico when he was running well and in the points.”
Barrichello was given a penalty at the end of the race for breaching safety car regulations. Luckily for the Brazilian, it didn’t affect his overall finishing position. He was one of nine drivers that was penalised after the race.
“The regulations probably need a review, rather than [just] clarifying,” says the Williams technical director. “From a personal perspective, I was in favour of the old system when you could duck and dive into the pits under the Safety Car in order to win advantage, but I also appreciate that the current rules are there to promote safety.”
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is next up on the 2010 calendar. Sam Michael has clear aims for Williams’ home race. “We will have our new exhaust blown diffuser to improve the car performance by another step. Our target for the race is to finish both cars in the top ten.”