Q & A with Sam Michael

AUTOSPORT catches up with Williams's technical director Sam Michael following a promising British Grand Prix

Q & A with Sam Michael

Q. Not a bad result at Silverstone really?

Sam Michael: Yes, it was a good race in terms of the pace, especially for Nico. We got the third fastest lap of the race. Unfortunately we had a lot of traffic all the way through the middle stint behind Rubens. That's a shame because I think he could have shown his pace quite a bit more during the grand prix.

But the good thing is we moved ahead a place in the constructors. I think we are starting to put away the points that we should have done earlier in the season, but the development of the car is obviously going in the right direction. We are bringing parts to the car, as everyone else is, but I think we are slightly closing the gap, which is good.

Q. Is there a specific part of the car that made a difference this weekend?

SM: Well, we spent a lot of time in the last couple of races doing a lot of suspension mods, that enable us to move the set-up window into quite a different area, to get more out of the slick tyres. We started to see the benefits of that at Istanbul and probably some more again at Silverstone.

Q. Is the target to try and widen the operating window of the tyres?

SM: To be honest that has not been a major issue for us. It's just about getting more grip out of them and making sure there is more rubber on the road.

Q. Are you happy with Kazuki's performance this weekend?

SM: Yeah, he has definitely stepped up over the last two or three races. I think even though he didn't score any points today, he is definitely helping contribute to the programme. He was a big help around here at Silverstone and he is going to right way.

Q. What happened to Kazuki's race?

SM: Well he was on a short first stint. It was a shorter first stint than we ideally would have liked and every lap around here makes a big difference.

Q. What about moving forward, you have momentum now. What's the realistic target now?

SM: We have just got to keep going on with what we are doing. It can change very quickly at the moment because the development rates are very high. We have just got to keep developing and keep moving ourselves forward in the championship.

Q. Nico says that he feels are podiums are now possible with this car, what do you think?

SM: Oh absolutely. I think we have already been through a couple of races where we should have scored podiums as well. Melbourne is a good example of a place where we raced to that podium, not because anyone fell off but through good performance, but we obviously didn't get it. The main thing is for us to just keep developing rather than saying we will target this or target that and we will do better.

Q. FOTA?

SM: From our point of view we are hopeful there will be some sort of solution where everybody is racing in the same championship. Williams' position is very clear, as we have made clear in the public domain. Hopefully there will be some common sense in the next few days. That's all I have to say on it really.

Q. Williams are in a complicated position. You want to be racing against the best teams, but you are locked into a championship that potentially won't have them.

SM: I don't we will be. Ultimately there will be common sense and the teams will all be racing in the same championship. You could also say that we are probably in the best position because we are just busy getting on with what we do, which is making racing cars. Sometimes when you get involved in political situations you can end up getting so wrapped up in it, you can't see the wood for the trees.

That's not really happened to Williams because the option wasn't there for us. There wasn't really a choice to make, we were contracted and that was it. It's not like we sat there and said, 'ooh shall we go with this group or that group'. It was absolutely clear, not just by regulation, but contractual law that we had to do what we did.

Q. Do you think that might actually have helped your development progress in comparison to other teams, because you have not taken your eye off the ball?

SM: It could do, mind you Red Bull are in that group and they are still developing pretty hard. I don't know, it's always a bit subjective when you look at things like that.

Q. Overtaking seemed pretty difficult here at Silverstone? It seemed to screw both your drivers' races?

SM: It's a good point because Nico at stages was a good 0.5s quicker than the cars in front of him, but he couldn't get past. And those were cars without KERS obviously, so there is still work to do. It's maybe working a little bit, but we have just got to keep trying to improve it because it is not an easy problem.

Q. If we didn't have slot diffusers, for example, would that have improved it further?

SM: I don't think that has got anything to do with it. Because a slot diffuser is just a downforce-adding device so it's not really relevant. Cars are always going to have downforce because they are moving so fast through the air. Unless you run the races in a vacuum!

Q. But surely it is still an issue. The fans are spending 80 or 90 quid to see racing, and there is no overtaking.

SM: It is an issue that we have to keep trying to improve, but even though you quote the fans who are paying 80 or 90 quid a race. They are also here to see the fastest cars, the technology and the drivers that go with that. They are not here just to see overtaking. All the fan studies that have been done by FIA and also FOTA show that. They want to know that they are watching the quickest cars in the world. Because if they just wanted to see overtaking, they could go down to Shennington kart track.

You'd see a lot more overtaking down there than you ever would at a grand prix, or any auto race if you like. But there is a reason why you don't get a 100,000 people watching go-kart racing, and that is because there is no technology. There is overtaking, but everything else that F1 has they don't have. It's a little but why people go to Farnborough Air Show.

They go there to see Migs, Tornados and things like that, because they know those are the absolute best things in the world - if they weren't after technology they would go and watch a paper airplane competition. It's exciting to watch because you know about all the technology involved in it.

Q. What are Nico's targets for the rest of this year?

SM: Just to score more points and for Williams to go up in the championship. Nico is always trying to improve himself and so are we.

Q. He has talked about his future, and why it is complicated because of the split. Obviously you want to keep him?

SM: Yeah sure but I think it's not really relevant to what we do in this year's championship. Contractually what we do with Nico is something we would rather talk directly with him and deal with.

Q. It's quite difficult to measure Nico's level, you have a much better insight to it.

SM: We do, we probably have a much better insight than anybody. Because we know what situations develop. Nico is doing a good job for us and we are happy. As Nico has said in the press he is discussing his future, I'm sure with other teams, but also with Williams.

Q. How much do you value him, where do you rate him?

SM: Oh I rate him right up there.

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