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Q&A with Williams’ Sam Michael 30 Apr 2009

Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 17 April 2009 Williams FW31 rear detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 2 April 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 March 2009 Nico Rosberg and Williams' technical director Sam Michael discuss settings Williams nose cone.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 2 April 2009

It’s been a tough start to the 2009 season for Williams. Like Brawn and Toyota, they began the year with a double diffuser. Unlike Brawn and Toyota, they were ultimately unable to capitalize on it in terms of points. To date, Nico Rosberg has scored 3.5, Kazuki Nakajima none. However, as technical director Sam Michael admits, it's arguably team errors, rather than car or driver, that has been to blame…

Q: Has FW31 lived up to your pre-season expectations?
Sam Michael:
It’s been quite quick in the opening few races, but we haven’t delivered in terms of points and that’s been very frustrating. Our rivals are catching up quickly and it will be difficult to maintain a development edge over them during the year, but that’s our job and we’ll keep pushing.

Q: What problems have kept the team out of the points?
SM:
We’ve made a few mistakes. In Australia we had a problem with a wheel nut, which cost Nico about 10 seconds, in Malaysia we didn’t switch to intermediate tyres at the right time and in China we made the wrong strategic call with Nico when we brought him in during the first Safety Car period.

Q: Did ‘diffusergate’ tarnish the opening races for you?
SM:
We had to go and defend our case at the International Court of Appeal, and there was some work connected to that, but in terms of how we went about our job it didn’t affect us at all. Technically,
I had no doubt as to which way the decision would go, but you can never be 100 percent sure when things go to court. As it was, the FIA deemed our diffuser legal.

Q: How exciting do you find the development race this year?
SM:
It’s great, but the rules are quite restrictive this year and the development is contained to specific areas of the car. As a result, the field is very close together: in Bahrain there were just 1.3s separating first and 20th positions.

Q: How much of a factor will KERS play in the coming races?
SM:
As the rate of development slows, KERS will take on a greater significance. We’re working flat out to get it onto the FW31 as soon as possible, but I can’t say when that will be at this stage. As soon as it’s ready, it’ll be on the car.

Q: Do you think it’s healthy for Formula One to have new teams winning races this year?
SM:
Yes, I do. The racing’s been really good and the victories of Brawn and Red Bull have brought new characters and new faces to the fore. Formula One is about a team working well technically and a driver driving well; it’s free competition and the people that do the best job are the ones that deserve to succeed.

Q: Are you pleased with the performances of Nico and Kazuki so far this year?
SM:
They are doing the best job that they can. I think every driver raises his game from year to year, especially when they’re in their early 20s like Nico and Kazuki. They are getting better and better, and a lot of that is simply down to experience.