Williams F1: Q&A with Sam Michael

Williams F1 has released a Q&A with technical director Sam Michael. It was a difficult weekend for Williams but if there is an upside, which I believe there is, it is that Rubens Barrichello salvaged points in an otherwise challenging race.

Qualifying was particularly difficult and placed both cars behind the 8-ball for the race even with their new upgrades.

Q: Please sum up the team’s performance at the Spanish Grand Prix.

SM: Two points for Rubens was a good result considering where we were on Saturday, but our overall performance wasn’t good enough in Spain and we must keep pushing to make more significant progress.

Q: You added lots of new parts to the FW32s over the weekend. What impact did they have on performance?

SM: We brought a series of updates to both of the cars for Barcelona. Initially, we tested the parts on Rubens’ car during Friday’s practice sessions, and the team back at Grove worked hard to deliver additional sets for Nico’s car in time for Saturdays’ third and final practice. The upgrades we raced included a new diffuser, which in turn required a new gearbox, we also had revised sidepod intakes and a new active front wing actuator. We also ran new wing mirrors, as per the altered regulation. Both drivers ran identical updates during qualifying and the race. The new parts allowed us to
maintain our level of competitiveness in comparison to the other teams. Red Bull have edged further forwards than everyone else though.

Q: Both cars were damaged during qualifying. What impact did the damage have on the drivers’ one-lap performances?

SM: Rubens’ car suffered heavy stone damage during qualifying. On his return to the pits, the front wing, rear wing, roll hoop, suspension fairings and his helmet were all damaged. We weren’t able to measure the impact on downforce, but it would have affected it, however small. Nico ran wide over a kerb during his second run in Q1 which caused some damage to the bib splitter. As a result, we fitted a new one between Q1 and Q2 so it had no bearing on his Q2 qualifying performance.

Q: You asked Rubens to slow his pace in the closing laps of the race. Why was this?

SM: Rubens was on the radio reporting a possible issue with either his front tyres or the front end of the car so he chose to back off to ensure we made it to the end of the race. We are now investigating what that issue was.

Q: Were you surprised by the durability of the option tyre in the first stint of the race?

SM: No not at all. The option tyre has been the strongest tyre all season.

Q: Nico made an unscheduled second pitstop on lap 32. Why was this?

SM: After his first stop, Nico picked up the same car damage to the bib splitter that he had in qualifying so he was running with significantly less downforce than normal. While protecting his
position, he flat-spotted his front tyres which forced a second stop.

Q: Monaco is next on the calendar, a race in which AT&T Williams has traditionally been strong. What’s the secret to a quick lap there and what are your expectations for the race?

SM: To be quick around Monaco, you need a softer car set-up to normal with maximum downforce. We also have some specific parts that we bring to Monaco that we only run at this race. The circuit is
really narrow and those barriers are a real test of a drivers’ mettle. The closer they can take the cars to the barriers, the better the lap times.

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