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Q&A with Williams' Sam Michael 14 Jul 2009

Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 12 July 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 leads Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 12 July 2009

From 15th on the Nurburgring grid to a fourth-place finish, Williams’ Nico Rosberg - and his FW31 - enjoyed a very strong German race. And although team mate Kazuki Nakajima crossed the line in 12th, he still managed to set the Grand Prix’s fifth-fastest lap. Overall it was a successful outing for Williams, and Sam Michael, the British team’s technical director, is confident they will be equally competitive at the forthcoming Hungarian race…

Q: Were you pleased with the progress of the team at the Nurburgring?
Sam Michael:
We’re improving the performance levels of the FW31 at every race, and that’s translating into greater competitiveness across a variety of tracks. All the teams are bringing upgrades to each race, so it’s encouraging to see that our development plan is working.

Q: How did the cool conditions affect tyre performance?
SM:
Quite a lot. It was difficult to get the tyres up to their correct operating conditions and then to keep them there. It was clear as early as Friday morning that it was going to be an issue and remain so throughout the weekend. When that happens there is also a high risk of graining, which is why we opted to run the harder prime tyre for the majority of the race.

Q: Please explain the rationale behind the team’s tyre choices during Q2.
SM:
Like the rest of the field, we did one lap on slick tyres but abandoned it when it started to rain and switched to intermediates. While on the Inters, Kazuki radioed in to say that the track was ready to go back on slicks, but it would be prudent to do another lap on the Inters. That almost paid off for him. By the time he went back out on the slicks, it had rained again and we’d missed the window. Nico was on a similar strategy. He was out on track at the right time with the slicks, but his car balance wasn’t right. There was some luck going on with the choices we made, but it was the same for everyone and we just didn’t do as good a job as the other teams.

Q: What caused the fuel system problem on Nico’s car in the race, and what were the ramifications?
SM:
Five laps before Nico’s first pit-stop we started to see issues with the fuel rail high pressure which forced us into pitting earlier than we had fuel for. We also added a large amount of extra fuel to give us the margin we needed at the second stop. This meant Nico had to carry the extra margin for the remainder of the race which slowed him down. We have now analysed the data and parts, understood the problem and put in place revisions to the system for Budapest race.

Q: Do you think this was Nico’s best Formula One race?
SM:
That’s fairly subjective but, if you judge him by his progression through the field and his recent first lap performances, it’s clear Nico is driving really well at the moment. His first lap at the Nurburgring reminded me of his performance in Istanbul where he also made significant gains in the opening lap.

Q: How would you sum up Kazuki’s performance at the Nurburgring?
SM:
Again, Kazuki was quick throughout qualifying and the race, demonstrated when he set the fifth-fastest race lap time. Unfortunately, though, he spent the race in traffic so wasn’t able to show what he was capable of.

Q: Looking ahead, how do you expect the FW31 to perform in Hungary?
SM:
We should be competitive there too. We will be taking more upgrades to Budapest, but all the teams need to be bringing 0.2 seconds to every race just to stay where they are. It’s so close out there that you can’t afford not to bring new parts to every race.