Coming off the back of a stunning qualifying performance in Sochi, which saw George Russell take P3 on the grid for the Russian GP, the Williams team had a bit of a reality check in qualifying for the Turkish GP, lining up on the 7th and 8th row with its cars. The team’s head of vehicle performance Dave Robson gave some insight, in a virtual media session with selected media including MotorLAT, in what he believes will be a ‘tough’ race at the Istanbul Park.
"It’s going to be tough tomorrow, the track has had a bit of a reset since yesterday, it looks like there will be a bit more rain tonight, but the race itself looks like it’s going to be dry, but understanding exactly how tyres are going to work, and how the drivers need to approach turn 8 in particular it’s going to be a little bit of a voyage of discovery.
"I think we’ve got an idea on how we think they’ll behave on our car, and how other people will behave, but we’ll have to revise that live”, he concluded.
Robson doesn’t expect to see much race action with the red-walled, soft compound tyres on Sunday, believing it is essentially a 'qualifying tyre':
"I think we saw everyone except [Yuki] Tsunoda got through on the option [medium tyre]. I think that tells you where most people’s heads are at. That [soft tyre] is a qualifying tyre, so I don’t see anyone using that apart from, right at the very end in some attempt at the fastest lap maybe."
More rain expected tonight means further opportunities tomorrow. We'll be ready to push 👊 pic.twitter.com/UXeWqa3I3H— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) October 9, 2021
When asked by MotorLAT about what happened with Nicholas Latifi in qualifying, which saw him eliminated in the first segment of the session, a surprise considering he’s been in Q2 in 3 of the last 4 races, Robson explained the decision making and the run plan for the Canadian:
"He was basically on the same run plan as George, in Q1, we left the garage on the second set of tires, fuelled to do 3 timed laps, which the plan was to do fast-slow-fast, [but] he obviously made a mistake on the very first one, and we knew that the mistake at turn 1 was going to mean that lap was going to be deleted by the FIA.
"And the in those mixed conditions you thorn between ‘what do I do now?’ - the tyres probably won’t do two good push laps, and you can’t get the fuel power unit deployment if you do two consecutive laps. So, you got to choose: ‘I’m going to abort this one anyway because it’s going to be deleted, I got two more. Do I do another preparation lap and go all in at the end, the risk is it starts raining more yellow flags and so on, or do you say ‘conditions are good now, track position is good, battery is full’, all of which were true, so we went for it.
"He put in, at the time, what was a decent lap time, probably lost a little bit in the last couple of corners with [Esteban] Ocon I think, but otherwise it was a decent lap, unfortunately the track did just continue to improve and other people were able to get ahead of him. Arguably with the benefit of hindsight, we should’ve just gone all in at the end. But at the time, is one or the other. I think that’s just an example of his current run of bad luck, we could easily have made the other decision, and it could’ve easily panned out well, so it was unfortunate."
George Russell will start the race from 13th, after a mistake on his final flying lap in Q2 cost him a place in the top 10. The Williams team will be hoping to bounce back stronger on Sunday in Turkey.