Sam Michael Q&A

The FIA, the sport's governing body, last week sent a letter to the teams informing them that from the Italian Grand Prix onwards, it intended to change the way it measures tyre width. It explained that the tread width limit of 270mm for the front tyres would now be measured after the race, rather than when the tyres are new. It's believed that Michelin's tyres run closer to the limit on this and that the French manufacturer's contracted teams have been forced to refocus their test programmes at Monza this week to ensure their cars will be legal for the Italian Grand Prix. Williams' chief operations engineer Sam Michael believes it not inconceivable that Michelin teams will be forced to use a brand new, untested, tyre design in Italy, although he is hopeful it will not deal a fatal blow to any championship hopes Williams may have. Michael spoke to AUTOSPORT's Jonathan Noble

Sam Michael Q&A



The front tyre contact patch dimension, when new, has been the same since Imola 2001. The FIA has changed its interpretation of when it will measure that, we are clearly going to react to that. Our test programme at Monza will focus on the problem but it is unlikely that any solution we come up with will come without a loss of performance. The set-up of the car and how it works with the tyres is fundamental to lap time and we've got quite a big test programme on trying to improve that.



"To be honest we don't know. It is completely unknown. We have been back through all the data as far back as we can go and we cannot accurately quantify it in terms of lap time because it is not a parameter that has been actively controlled. It is very difficult for us to look back at data and say when we did this and did that to the contact patch it made a difference to the lap time. There is no strong link there. By the end of the Monza test we should have some indications and at least some initial thoughts on how much it is going to be worth."



"No. Nothing at all. The first thing happened was on Sunday night in Hungary and the FIA looked at the tyres. That was it really, but nothing was decided on Sunday night, it [the fax notification of a change to the measurement procedure] came out on Wednesday."



"That is the thing that we have to do a test programme to find out. We are not 100 percent sure under what conditions we can make the existing tyre not exceed those limitations. We will find out really quickly from the first day."



"At the moment I would say it is most likely that the situation will require a new tyre design for everybody. This is not just a problem for Williams it is a problem for every team that runs these tyres [Michelins]. At the moment we think we will need to run a new front tyre, but until we have done the testing we cannot say that for sure.



"I think that Michelin would be better to comment on that. Any tyre that Michelin produces we assume is completely safe so we don't get into that."



"I think it is something that we have to react to. It is like any other problem. It is like having another performance problem on the car except it is generated from a different area, but we will approach it like any other fault that we have got. We have set out a test programme to try and solve it. It is not disappointing, but it is I suppose just another challenge. Which is why the most important thing in this situation is to remain focused and keep your eye on winning races because that is important for the title - it is easy when you have one big problem for everybody to focus on that."



The only communication we have had from the FIA is the fax, so there has not been any communication on exactly how the measurement is going to be done or how it is going to be objectively measured. It is a very difficult thing to do because a car could brush a kerb from one lap to another and that makes it quite difficult to measure.



"I suppose that what we would do is just take our interpretation of it and hope it matches the FIA. We will be measuring the contact patches to see what width it is and hope that if Jo Bauer or Charlie Whiting measured our tyre the results came up with the same number. That is all we can do because we have not had any further guidance on how they are going to do it or with what equipment."

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