The first day of the F1 Grand Prix weekend in Spain was a real test day for the Williams Racing team. The team had brought several updates to improve the car and this aroused satisfaction. In the first free practice, Nyck de Vries took over the wheel from Alex Albon. The Dutchman made his debut in Formula 1.
Nyck de Vries: I have to admit that I was very nervous for FP1! I race and fight for championships outside of F1, but making your debut in Formula 1 is very unique and special, so I am very grateful for the opportunity. But when you get in the car and start the engine, you forget everything around you and you are alone with the car; all those nerves go away and you focus on your work. It wasn’t easy to jump in without knowing the car or the tires and everything was new, but I gave myself time to adjust and I’m quite happy with my performance. I’m always critical of myself, so I think there was more on the table, but I’m happy and positive about my first experience with Williams.
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: We tested some new components on the car today and collected some useful data to help us decide how to build the cars for tomorrow. Nyck did a great job in FP1 understanding the car and completing the program as planned; these cars aren’t easy to drive, especially when the track is that hot, and he’s done a good job of coming to terms with that and learning how the tires behave. Nicholas ran most of the test items today with Nyck and Alex as a baseline and while this gave Nicholas little more balance issues than he would have liked he was able to provide good feedback which will help us get the most out of the new parts. Alex had a short day and although he knows Barcelona very well, there is no substitute for time in the car. However, he was up to speed quickly in FP2 and understood the requirements of the Soft band during that session. We still need to improve a bit in how we get the most out of the tires for a single lap but even if we do this at night it will still be a challenging weekend and we will be looking to Sunday to give some opportunities as tire management is likely to dominate the Grand Prix.
Alex Albon: I think I got back up to speed pretty quickly after missing FP1 due to riding Nyck; every driver does enough laps here that we know the track like the back of our hands, so it was a good session to miss in that regard. We’re not on track as fast as we’d like, so our focus tonight is looking at the data to see what we can improve on Saturday. We can already see that tire degradation this weekend will be a challenge. It’s not something that has been a major issue this season so far but I expect there will be a lot of emphasis on tire management due to the nature of the track so that could be interesting in both qualifying and the race to make.
Nicholas Latifi: Our focus today was on trying a lot of different things and parts on the car. We didn’t come here with upgrades, but instead with different parts to understand and optimize the package and, without covering it up, we were very far off. It was a bit of a headache because it’s not just one problem that we face, but there are many different problems that we need to address. I think especially in FP1 it was extreme out the window and it felt like I was driving a completely different car, but for long term learning for the team it’s important, especially on a track like this where we know how the car must feel. So in that sense it was good to understand the setup options we have, but I think we have a lot of work to do tonight to get into the details and fine-tune everything for tomorrow.