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Podium chasing - Exclusive Q&A with Williams’ Sam Michael 27 Jul 2009

Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 25 July 2009 Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 24 July 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 25 July 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 25 July 2009 Williams team photo.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 25 July 2009

Having taken point-scoring results in the last six races, no one can argue with Williams’ consistency. And with Nico Rosberg securing a second successive fourth place in Hungary on Sunday, the FW31 has pace too. A podium must be the next step and the forthcoming European Grand Prix could be just the place to do it. We spoke to Williams’ technical director Sam Michael about the team’s Budapest weekend, their prospects for Valencia, Kazuki Nakajima’s form and more…

Q: Another strong result and the third fastest race lap - you must be pleased with that?
Sam Michael:
Yes, it was another strong showing for the FW31. In Nico’s case he did well to get back past Kovalainen at Turn 1 otherwise his first stint would have been tedious! Unfortunately we couldn’t get past Webber when he was struggling on the prime tyre in the second stint so we missed a shot at the podium.

Q: You brought more new aero parts to Hungary. Did they produce the kind of performance gains you expected?
SM:
Yes, we had new front and rear wings, sidepod sails and floor modifications. Everything that comes from the wind tunnel worked as expected. We also had some revisions to our fuel system that cost us positions at Nurburgring - they worked fine in Budapest.

Q: You have now scored at every round since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. What’s the secret to the FW31’s consistency?
SM:
Race car performance comes from improving everything on the car and not relying on there being one magic bullet.

Q: Nico took his second consecutive fourth-place finish on Sunday. Are there any particular venues coming up where you see a real chance of breaking back on to the podium?
SM:
One pleasing aspect of the FW31 is that it’s been quick across all different types of track - slow speed, high speed and street circuits. We don’t have the dips in performance that we had with previous cars. That said, we still like street circuits!

Q: What updates are you planning to bring to the next round in Valencia?
SM:
Another diffuser and a revised suspension.

Q: A lot has been made of the team moving away from so much low-fuel work in Friday practice. What difference has this really made?
SM:
Not much difference at all. It just helps us get a better shot of a good lap in Q3 when the fuel load is back up. You can only do it when you are confident of easily going through from Q1 to Q2 and semi-confident of going through from Q2 to Q3. If you’re not, then it’s better to concentrate on low fuel running because qualifying is so important in F1.

Q: All of your 25.5 points this season have been scored by Nico. Has Kazuki merely been a victim of bad luck, or is Nico really that much better?
SM:
Nico is driving really well, but we’ve also cost Kazuki a couple of point scoring opportunities - for example, we had a problem with our wheel nut in Istanbul and Kaz was solidly in the points there. Kazuki is obviously trying really hard to score and his speed has been there as you could see in Q2 at Budapest. I’m sure it will come to him soon.

Q: Some teams are already refocusing their attentions on their 2010 cars. How are you splitting your efforts between FW31 and FW32, and how will that split change as we approach the end of the season?
SM:
We are concentrating on FW32 already because the chassis manufacturing program demands that in order to have it ready in time for February testing in 2010. We have a few more small developments on FW31 in the next couple of races and then it will be full time on FW32.

Q: Going into the summer break Williams lie sixth in the table. How does that compare with your pre-season expectations?
SM:
We expected to be better.

Q: Finally, what are your plans for the summer break?
SM:
We’re going to set up camp outside the other F1 teams to make sure they’re not working!