Sam Michael Q&A

A few races ago Juan Pablo Montoya did not look like a championship contender, but after a remarkable run of 50 points in six races, he is just six points behind leader Michael Schumacher. Pole and victory in Hockenheim suggests that the momentum is on his side. Team-mate Ralf Schumacher cannot be discounted, although his first retirement of the year in Germany was very expensive, and if he loses his appeal against a grid penalty for the next race in Hungary, life will be even harder. Nevertheless things are looking good for Williams, especially in the constructors' championship, in which it lies just two points behind Ferrari. Adam Cooper spoke to chief operations engineer Sam Michael about Hockenheim and prospects for the rest of the season

Sam Michael Q&A

"On the pit wall it was very difficult, and also inside the cockpit for Juan. He obviously struggled quite a bit with a sensor problem, but there was not much he could do about it really. It was a bit hectic on the pit wall for a while, but it was OK."

"We had a problem with the spare potentiometer on the butterflies on the engine. That meant that he only got 90 per cent throttle from after the first pit stop, so he did all the rest of the race like that. But because he was still lapping two seconds quicker than anybody we decided not to touch it. We could have plugged a lap top in at the pit stop and disabled it, but there's a chance that we would have had to turn the engine off, and sometimes you can't get it going again. We decided to just leave it."

"He was gaining speed everywhere else. The car was so strong compared to everyone else... he would probably have lost two or three tenths a lap from that problem."

"I think so, yeah. I haven't looked close enough at the video yet. As soon as a car is out like that, you're straight onto the other car."

"It looks very good for the championship. In some ways it's a surprise, but also it came from a lot of hard work and decisions, and they've obviously all paid off."

"Definitely. A good judge of Hungary performance is Monaco, Magny-Cours and Hockenheim, and we've won all those three races. We've got more parts coming to the car again to improve the pace for Hungary, so we're quite confident of those championships now."

"I think so, but as long as they keep coming first and second then it's not such a big deal for us. We don't care which way they come around first and second, as long as we get those points for the constructors. They can sort the drivers' championship out themselves."

"Potentially, yes, but obviously we don't have any team orders, so that's up to them."

"He's got a lot more experience now, so I don't see any problem with him performing well in Hungary. He should be as strong there as he is elsewhere."

"I think that up until Imola we did struggle, and at Imola it really turned around. It wasn't so evident straight away in results, because we had separate problems, but Imola was really the turnaround point in the pace of the car. Since then we've had a very aggressive development programme, the people in the design office and aero department have worked very hard, and also Michelin as well. We have a very strong relationship with them and they gave us a lot of support at the start of the year when we were struggling. A lot of it came from changing the car so much [over the winter]. The car was a very different car to the last three Williams, and it takes a long time to sort those things out. Now we're coming good."

"Working hard, I think. We're still two points behind Ferrari in the championship, and Juan is six points behind Michael. We still have work to do. We want to make sure we go into the last couple of races of the year in a strong position."

"Suzuka. I think that will be the hardest race. I think at Hungary and Monza we can do the same job as Hockenheim. Indy will be about equal [with Ferrari], but we should be able to do something. Then Suzuka will be tough."

"A little bit. We were a lot stronger in Silverstone than we thought we'd be, but we were still weren't as strong as Ferrari, so they were still quicker than us there. That's why we have the biggest concern over Suzuka. Once we get to a high-speed track, with a lot of high-speed changes of direction, and cold temperatures, they are potentially stronger than us. That's why from our point of view it would be wise to try and get into the last race with a bit of a lead in the championship rather than being behind. We'll just take every race as it comes and see what happens."

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