INTERVIEW

Sam Michael


Sam Michael, German GP 2008

Sam Michael, German GP 2008 

 © The Cahier Archive

Williams came away empty-handed for the third successive race in Canada after Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg made seven pit stops between them. Technical director Sam Michael talks about the state of play.

Q: What was the story in Canada?

The main thing was to see an improvement on Istanbul, where our performance was pretty lacking, so we brought an aero upgrade and a new fuel and those couple of things made quite a big difference. We saw a marked performance improvement, as demonstrated by the times the drivers were able to do during qualifying and the race. The new front wing gave us more downforce and will stay on the car for Valencia.

Q: You qualified best-placed cars outside the top 10. Why the split strategy?

It was a difficult decision to make. Estimates of how long the supersoft tyre would last in the first stint ranged from five to 12 laps and the risk of a Safety Car in Canada is massive -- the stat is so high. Sometimes there's been four in one race, as in '07.

Q: Canada is also tough on brakes. Did you have any problems?

We brought new ducts and a new material from Carbone Industrie. We actually brought two or three different combinations of material, ran a bulletproof one in P1, tried something more risky in P2, which looked like a step too far, so we went back overnight and put on the bulletproof stuff again. We couldn't have pushed it any further. Rubens actually suffered a long pedal with reduced braking efficiency in the race but caused by overheating following damage sustained to his front wing.

Q: How is the partnership with Cosworth going?

It's been going well with Cosworth. They've been on a steep learning curve over the winter and in the first few races. We are very demanding, both internally of ourselves in terms of chassis and aero development, but also from their point of view, and that's why they're with us. That's what they wanted us to do, to push them and take them up the grid. We are telling them what is and isn't going well and pushing them pretty hard. But they are responding to that and it's what we want to see. With any engineering problem what you want to see is progression. It doesn't matter if you are getting yourself in trouble because that happens to any team.

Q: How do you assess Nico Hulkenberg's performance?

He did a good job in Canada to qualify just 0.004s behind Rubens and is progressing well. Rubens is very fast and massively experienced and a huge asset to this team. Nico has got huge shoes to try to step into and he won't do it from an experience point of view. It's not possible in his equivalent lifetime with Rubens because Rubens is so experienced. He can't catch that up and so he has to target just matching him on pace as much as possible.

Q: Was it a surprise that he was able to do that on a first visit to Montreal, which is a confidence place with late braking and close walls?

It's tricky from that point of view but it's not a sequence track. If you look at tracks like Suzuka, the whole of sector one is about 45s but every corner depends on the previous one. You make a mistake in T1 and it might only cost you a tenth but that turns into seven tenths by the time you go through sector one. Montreal is not like that. You start again from zero at the next corner, so a very different type of track, but you're right, it was his first time at Montreal and he had to deal with typical street circuit conditions, like low grip.

Q: What are your thoughts on the team's overall progress?

We're on the verge of top 10 now. In Q2 at Montreal we were nine tenths away from the quickest time whereas in Turkey we were 1.7s away, so we've made progress and just need to keep on that route. We are spending a lot of time on next year's car but so is everyone now. I'd like to spend more time to be honest but I'd also like to finish in a respectable position with this car too. First, to show what you can do but also to make sure you understand the problems you've got so that they don't get built into next year's car.

Q: Is there a fundamental problem with FW32?

No. If you go looking for a magic bullet in this business you just get lost. I've seen so many people do that and fail. You just have to concentrate on everything.

Q: What are your immediate development plans?

Our Silverstone upgrade will have a new diffuser and a new exhaust system and it looks quite positive in the wind tunnel.

Q: How much is there to be gained from handling the exhaust gases well in relation to the diffuser and rear wing?

A lot. It's a big area.

Q: Is that something you think the other teams have optimised, or not?

No, no way. The only team that's really done that is Red Bull. It's quite annoying actually because it's an idea our aero guys thought up last November but we just didn't have the time to implement it properly and so we're a bit disappointed with ourselves that we couldn't get that onto the car quick enough.

Q: Is it bad news for Red Bull because others will make a step they already have?

That's true but they do have it more optimised and those who haven't run it on the track yet could have burning issues with it, in the area of the suspension or diffuser. We won't know that until we've run it and we plan to do an aero test in the week before Silverstone to check that out.

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