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Q&A with Williams' Sam Michael: we are closing the gap 09 Jun 2009

Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 17 April 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 7 June 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 7 June 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 and Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.09 at the start of the race as Timo Glock (GER) Toyota TF109 rejoins the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 7 June 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 6 June 2009

As one of three teams, alongside Toyota and Brawn, to start the season with the innovative double diffuser, Williams had been touted as championship contenders. But, while the FW31 has shown impressive pace during practice sessions, things haven’t quite panned out the same during races. At last weekend’s Turkish race, however, Williams enjoyed a boost. Drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima both gained two places off the start line and the team would have enjoyed a double point’s finish were it not for Nakajima’s problematic final pit stop. Still, as technical director Sam Michael explains, Rosberg’s season-best fifth place was reward enough…

Q: Are you pleased with the performance of the FW31 around Istanbul Park?
Sam Michael:
Yes I am. The FW31’s development pace is going well and we are closing the gap to the teams in front. We now need to continue making that kind of progress throughout the rest of this season.

Q: Did the new front wing close the gap to your nearest rivals?
We started set-up work with the new front wing in practice on Friday and it worked as expected straightaway. It will now be the baseline from which we'll keep making developments.

Q: How did you find the two types of tyre available this weekend?
We experienced some graining on the option during the practice sessions which caused us a small amount of concern, but the issue became less problematic by the time we used it during Sunday’s race.

Q: Both drivers made good starts in the race. How much work have you done in this area?
We were really happy with the drivers’ starts as both Nico and Kazuki gained a couple of positions off the line and, by the end of the first lap, Nico had progressed four places up the order. The Toyota engine has always had a really strong bottom end and that is a crucial element to our starts.

Q: Thoughts on your drivers' race performances?
Nico's first lap was fairly impressive. Starting in ninth and ending the first lap in fifth position was more than we’d hoped for. He made some good overtaking manoeuvres on Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa, all in that first lap, but then to hold position and pull out a gap was great. His first stint was strong, as was his second, so it was frustrating to lose track position to Trulli in the last pit stop. Overall though, Nico did a good job for the team this weekend. Kazuki also drove really well. He had a good first lap but he was on a different strategy to Nico in that he was on a longer first stint. Kazuki kept pushing in the final stint of the race and his pace was really good, it was just a shame about the pit stop as he could have collected a couple of points for seventh.

Q: Rosberg was only 3.5s behind Trulli at the flag. Was fourth place ever on the cards?
It was, but we couldn't pull out a big enough gap from Trulli in the last few laps before his final stop. Because Trulli was fuelled longer than us and able to hold his position, he was a bit quicker.

Q: What went wrong at Nakajima's second pit stop and how much time did he lose?
We had a problem with the wheel nut retention device and I’m really sorry that we let him down. In order for us to expect a lot from our drivers we, in turn, can't let them down like that.

Q: Silverstone’s next. How do you expect the FW31 to perform?
The FW31 has been strong on tracks with high speed corners all year. With the upgrades that we will be taking to Silverstone, I expect us to be fighting for points again.