Williams chief technical officer Pat Symonds believes one dramatic race could decide the battle against Force India for fourth in the constructors’ championship.
The two teams are closely matched but Force India opened up a ten-point advantage over Williams at Suzuka courtesy of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finishing seventh and eighth respectively. While both cars scored, the return was only ten points, while Williams came home ninth and tenth to score three points itself.
With Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari fighting it out in the top six, Symonds says such races result in only small gains or losses for each team, but believes a race where bigger points are on offer could decide its battle.
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“I think in terms of absolutely performance the cars are actually quite equal,” Symonds told F1i. “I think they are ahead of us on the slow tracks but then in Singapore it wasn’t by as much as I’d feared. In Malaysia we were a fraction ahead of them, in Monza we were a fraction ahead of them in outright performance, so what it comes down to then is utilisation.
“So we’ve got two cars that to all intents and purposes have got the same performance, so then it’s all about using the damn things and racing properly. That means you have to really get your tyres working properly – because it’s not all about aerodynamics, still – you have to make sure that you are strategically and tactically working at the limit and above all you have to make sure you’ve got good reliability. This is something I’ve emphasised back at the factory a lot.
“What the fourth place battle in the constructors’ championship could come down to is being there on the day when there are loads of points to score. The fact is there are six cars quicker than the rest of us, and that takes the lion’s share of the points. 88 points go into the top six and 13 are left for the rest. So the reality is you’re snapping away at these few points that are left for seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth.
“If we evenly share those between ourselves and Force India then fine, may the best man win, but if you get the day when suddenly there are a couple of those cars that should normally occupy the top six haven’t finished, that’s when it counts.”
And Symonds references the Malaysian Grand Prix – where Valtteri Bottas finished fifth but team-mate Felipe Massa failed to score due to a reliability issue – as one such example after Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both retired from the race.
“That’s why something like what happened in Malaysia was really tragic because Valtteri showed we had a car that was the equal of the Force India and I’ve every reason to belief that if Felipe had made a normal start we would have been in a good position. As it was, Force India took two points off us. I don’t think that was a true reflection of Malaysia.”
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