James, sum up today’s race from your point of view?
What we’d give for a ‘normal’ race! Starting without grid penalties for gearbox issues, without wet conditions for two drivers who have never sampled the Pirelli wet tyres, and so on. The big positive we can take from today is that our pace and degradation on the slick tyres at the end of the race was very encouraging. Give us a clean race with good getaways from the right qualifying positions and we should be able to collect a good reward.
In such changeable conditions, it must have been difficult making the strategy calls from the pit wall today?
The opening period was certainly tricky, as there were two main paths to choose from and it wasn’t clear which would be the best. We either had to try to manage the intermediates right up until a safety car period intervened, or we took the other road which was to make an early change to the full wet tyre.
We gambled on the first option, as did the majority of the field as it was the lower risk choice, but the safety car came a little too late for us. With the conditions worsening sharply and no sign of a safety car, the risk of a DNF forced a late stop for the full wets thereby negating any potential benefit from our earlier choice.
What about the later decision to switch to slick tyres; that seemed to be an equally complicated call to make?
It was obvious that the track could support a dry tyre for a while, but nobody wanted to risk making the switch as there was more rain on the radar and the wrong call could have been disastrous. In our particular circumstances, switching early would mean holding our position at best, but losing half a dozen or so places if it then rained. Waiting and following the pack would mean losing a single place to Webber at worst, and holding our place at best. In strategy calls you take a risk when you have nothing to lose, but you play the averages when you are in a decent position.
Were you happy with the pace of the car in the wet conditions?
Not especially to be honest - we could not live with the pace of the leaders. The tyres lasted very well but as the intermediates wore down to become de-facto slicks at different rates for different teams, our competitiveness relative to those we were racing ebbed and flowed a bit. As the track cleared and we got out on the dry tyres, it was pretty clear we had a strong package.
A well-earned break now after tough back to back races; what have we got planned in terms of developments for the next race in China and beyond?
I don’t know if break is the right word! We’ll still be working flat out, and we’ve got plenty of upgrades on the way for China to help extract some more pace from the car. When you look at how tight the field is, the sort of developments we will bring would gain us quite a few places on the grid if nobody else were doing the same thing; unfortunately for us of course they all are all working just as furiously as we are! We’ll just have to hope our development slope is steeper theirs’ to allow us to inch forward in China. This year more than ever, mounting a sustained development programme will be the key to success.