Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado demonstrated speed and tenacity to come home in 12th and 14th places in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The AT&T Williams drivers made up a total of 21 places during the race. Here, Chief Operations Engineer Mark Gillan gives his thoughts on the weekend.
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer:
Q: How would you sum up AT&T Williams’ race weekend in Abu Dhabi?
MG: We had a difficult Friday and Saturday with two engine issues on Rubens’ car, one of which severely limited our P3 programme and prevented Rubens from taking part in qualifying. As a result of using their 9th engines in Abu Dhabi, both Rubens and Pastor started at the back of the grid on Sunday, but showed excellent spirit and resolve to fight their way through the field and finish P12 and P14 respectively.
Q: Rubens wasn’t able to complete a lap during qualifying. What was the cause of his problems?
MG: As mentioned, we suffered a second engine issue with Rubens in third practice due to an engine oil level problem. We changed all of the ancillaries outside of the engine to try and rectify the problem prior to qualifying but on fire up it became evident that the issue was an internal engine problem and we therefore had to break the FIA seal. Cosworth fixed the problem after qualifying and we resealed the engine, taking the penalty.
Q: How did Pirelli’s medium and soft compound tyres fare in the race?
MG: The soft tyre was better in terms of pace, with the lap time difference between the two compounds being approximately one second in favour of the soft tyre. There was, however, little difference in terms of wear profiles between the two, allowing some teams to run one-stop strategies.
Q: You tried different strategies with Pastor on a one-stop and Rubens on a two-stop, what were the benefits of each?
MG: We started both cars on the medium compound because they were out of position and we wanted to get the slower tyre out of the way early on, allowing both drivers to then use the soft tyre once they had passed the slower cars. We then decided to split the strategies based on each driver’s position and our analysis of other teams’ performances on the soft tyre.
Q: How marginal was the one-stop strategy for Pastor?
MG: Ultimately there was little difference in overall lap time between a one-stop and two-stop strategy, however the former gave Pastor the benefit of track position at the stop, which was advantageous.
Q: How would you sum up the relative performances of Rubens and Pastor this weekend?
MG: Both drivers had very similar pace this weekend and continued to show a good, consistent race pace but we know that we simply need to make the car’s base performance much better for 2012.
Q: The team is staying in Abu Dhabi this week for the Young Driver test. Can you explain the programme that the team is running?
MG: Yes, we have a full programme for the three days, with our current test and reserve driver Valtteri Bottas driving on the first two days and Formula Two champion Mirko Bortolotti on the final day. We will be evaluating both young drivers in addition to performing Pirelli’s tyre test programme.
Q: The Brazilian Grand Prix comes next, and it’s also the final Grand Prix of the year. What are your hopes for Interlagos?
MG: Personally, Interlagos is one of my favourite tracks of the season and as a team we are aiming to finish this year with a good reliable weekend before the winter break, so that means having a strong qualifying session and giving a solid race performance with both cars.