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Q&A with Sam Michael

NEWS STORY
30/03/2009

The AT&T Williams team had a positive start to the 2009 season, demonstrating both pace and reliability from the start of the first practice session, but the anticipated nature of the race at Albert Park, which features frequent safety car intervals, meant that the race was unlikely to follow a strict form guide. In the event, Kazuki Nakajima succumbed to an accident on lap 17, while Nico Rosberg, despite recording the fastest lap of the day, had an extremely eventful race, crossing the line in P6.

He was later promoted to P5 after the Stewards imposed a 25s penalty on Jarno Trulli1. Toyota were not alone in being penalised after the race, with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel incurring a fine and collecting a ten place grid penalty which he will serve at next weekend's Malaysian GP.

What caused Kazuki's puncture in P1, and did it cause any other damage to the car?
Sam Michael, Technical Director: A valve cap came off, and yes, it did damage a brake duct, but that was repaired immediately after the session

How much did the track improve during the course of Friday?
SM: The track came to the drivers a lot during P1, but during the cooling temperatures in P2, conditions were actually a bit slower

How surprised were you to be quickest in all three practice sessions?
SM: Very! That said, we didn't make the assumption that this performance would necessarily convert into qualifying

What changes did you make to each of the cars between Q1 and Q2?
SM: Not an awful lot, just a degree of tuning of front wing angle and of course managing the tyre pressures

How much time did Kazuki lose at the final corner on his last lap of Q2?
SM: It cost him 0.3secs

Were you tempted to start the race with the super soft rubber on either car?
SM: No. Albeit safety cars are a common factor in Melbourne, it is not something you can rely on and without a safety car, it would have been a disaster strategy

What caused Kazuki's accident on lap 17?
SM: He hit the kerb too hard and lost rear end, from which point the situation was unrecoverable

Will Kazuki's car be fit for Malaysia given the back-to-back races
SM: Yes, we have some work to do, but the damage is all manageable with our usual stock of consumable parts

How did you alter Nico's strategy as a result of the first Safety Car period?
SM: We didn't make any changes to Nico's run plan as he had already made his first pitstop, which meant there was no scope to make changes

Why did Nico lose time at his first pitstop?
SM: His front left wheel nut locking device was caught on the wheel nut as the old tyre was being taken off, this then caused a jammed nut when new tyre went on

Why did his pace drop off in the last few laps? Did he push too hard too soon on the super soft tyre?
SM: Yes but it was a team decision. We decided to push to try to get Rubens - which he did do briefly, but it took too much out of the tyre

Why was FW31 so strong through sectors one and three?
SM: Our performance in sector 1 was a bit of a surprise in the race as we had not been strong there during practice and qualifying. Over sector 3, we had been strong all weekend and that is because the circuit configuration in this part of the track is dominated by change of direction, and we've improved the FW31's performance in this respect significantly this year.

What's you assessment of KERS, having seen it race today?
SM: It's a very valuable tool to have to promote overtaking and we want it on our car as soon as possible

How confident are you of maintaining this level of performance in Malaysia?
SM: We don't know yet and it would be rash to be over-confident, it is not in our nature!

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