AT&T Williams 2009 season review with Technical Director, Sam Michael Q: Thinking about 2009, what are your overall thoughts about the team’s season?
SM: 2009 was a good step forward from where we’ve been in previous seasons, particularly from
an aerodynamic perspective and in terms of consistency of the car across different tracks. It was
a very competitive season this year with only a second covering the field at some races, so it was
also satisfying when we were getting an extra one or two tenths out the car at those tracks.
Overall, this year was a good step forward, but we didn’t end it where we wanted to be.
Q: What were the highs and lows?
SM: I think the high points in terms of performance were when Nico was leading in Malaysia
before the rain came and then Singapore before the white line incident. The car’s much stronger
performance at Silverstone also upped our credibility as well.
Q: And how do you feel Nico and Kazuki performed?
SM: Nico’s done a great job for the team and scored all of our points this year. He’s come a long
way as a driver since he joined us four years ago and we wish him all the best. Kazuki certainly
improved as a driver this year and did a lot of work setting up the car over race weekends. If
anything, he drove better this year than last. In 2008 he was scoring points, but in a car that
wasn’t as competitive. The difference was that this year the field was so tight and therefore the
grid so penalizing. If you were a couple of tenths off, you just didn’t cut it.
Q: The team’s three year partnership with Toyota has come to an end with the move to
Cosworth. How were Toyota as an engine partner?
SM: Our relationship with Toyota was excellent. They did some great development work for us
and they always went the extra mile. We have only good memories of our time with them. It’s a
loss for the sport that they have withdrawn, and we wish all the staff at Cologne well for the future.
Q: There were significant changes to the regulations for 2009 with the express purpose of
improving the racing. Do you think they worked?
SM: I think that clearly the changes made the cars easier to follow, however, there’s a lot of work
that still needs to be done. One of the things that wasn’t addressed in the 2009 rule changes was
circuit design. If you look at tracks like Barcelona where no one overtakes and take exactly the
same cars to tracks like Monza, Hockenheim etc, there’s plenty of overtaking. The difference is
circuit layout. Organizers need to look closer at creating slower speed corners which feed onto
straights and at removing chicanes. If you look at somewhere like Abu Dhabi, there are some
good aspects to the circuit, but there are fundamental mistakes. There wasn’t good enough racing
there and the organizers need to rectify that before next year. You can’t keep blaming car design.
The FIA are looking into this now and will hopefully solve the problem.
Q: Can you take us through the regulation changes for next season?
SM: There will be three main changes: narrower front tires, no refueling and a ban on wheel
fairings. Narrower front tires will shift weight distribution rearwards slightly, which will affect the
aerodynamics and set-up of the car because of where the tires position the wake. With no
refueling permitted, all the fuel will have to be carried at the start of the race, so the driver will
have to manage brakes and tires more effectively than they’ve ever done. A ban on wheel fairings
should also improve the wake behind the car, so drivers can get closer to each other. That should
help to improve overtaking opportunities.
Q: Looking ahead to 2010, it’s all change at Williams, firstly with a completely new driver
pairing. Can you explain the choice of Barrichello and Hulkenberg?
SM: We chose Rubens because he is a multiple Grand Prix winner and has a huge amount of
experience; he also still has a huge amount of enthusiasm to win races. He’s quick and is the
complete package. We’re combining Rubens with Nico Hulkenberg, a rookie, but one who’s won
everything he’s competed in since he started karting. Nico has great potential for the future.
Combining youth with experience, we have what we wanted.
Q: What can each bring to the team and what are your expectations for them?
SM: We expect both of them to deliver at the level of the car and beyond. Rubens is already
having a motivating effect and we expect him to keep bringing that to everyone at Grove. Nico
has worked on the factory floor all year, so everyone knows him and is behind him. We want them
both to drive the factory towards wins. Unless you’ve worked with a race winner, you don’t know
where that level is and that is something that Rubens will bring us which we anticipate will have a
great effect on the team.
Q: The team is switching to Cosworth engines next year. Will they be able to compete
against the likes of the Mercedes and Ferraris?
SM: Cosworth have a lot of work to do over the winter on the dynos, particularly on fuel
consumption but, in terms of performance and reliability, it will be difficult to judge how
competitive they are until we get out on track. They are an engineering-led company, they’re
pushing hard and what we’ve seen so far is encouraging.
Q: How is winter development of the FW32 going?
SM: It’s going really well. It’s a big aero race over the winter to see how much downforce you can
add and drag you can take off. It’s also a matter of optimizing all the different design parts and
mechanical development as well. Both are areas of intense activity at the moment and we’re
making good progress, but there’s still a lot to do.
Q: When will the FW32 make its track debut?
SM: In the first week of February with the four, single car tests ahead of Bahrain.
Q: There is a young driver test coming up in December, who will the team have in the
SM: We will be running Andy Soucek on day one as part of his prize for winning the F2
Championship and then Nico Hulkenberg will take over for the remaining two days.
Q: What are the team’s ultimate objectives for 2010 and how will we achieve them?
SM: Our objective is to push everything to a much higher level from the solid base that we had
with the FW31; from our drivers to the engines, chassis and trackside performance. Everyone in
the factory is up for that and we want it to be a year about moving to the next level. We need to
re-establish ourselves as one of the top teams and 2010 is our best opportunity to do that.