TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH SAM MICHAEL: CLICK HERE

The AT&T Williams F1 team has managed two podiums this season and notched up 26 points, something that leaves the outfit just three points behind Red Bull Racing heading into the season finale at Interlagos. Crash.net Radio's Rob Wilkins spoke exclusively to technical director Sam Michael recently ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix and got his thoughts on that event - and the year to date...

Crash.net:
Sam, the season finale is almost upon us, what can the AT&T Williams F1 team do there?

Sam Michael:
Obviously we will be going to Brazil to try and score the best result possible. It is a track we have done well on before. We have scored two podiums already this year and you never know when another one could come up, especially if something happens at the front.

Crash.net:
Williams are only just behind Red Bull Racing in the Constructors' Championship. How critical is it to try and get enough points to overhaul them?

SM:
Of course it would be great to get another position in the Constructors'. However, we would need things to go our way quite a bit to do that. But we will go there and give it our best. To do that over one weekend given how tight it is in the midfield will be a challenge but that is what we have to try and do.

Crash.net:
Will Interlagos suit the FW30?

SM:
Traditionally, as I mentioned, Brazil has been a circuit that Williams has done pretty well at. That is probably because it is dominated by slow speed corners and although there are a couple of high-speed corners there - one of them is flat-out and the other is just before braking for another corner - the effect of them on the lap time is not large. As such it is a track that plays to Williams' advantages. It is a bit bumpy too - but not as much as it was in the past, although it is still bumpier than some of the more 'standard' tracks. Overall then it is a track that suits our car.

Crash.net:
Looking at the season as a whole, how do you think it has gone for Williams?

SM:
Not as well as planned obviously. F1 is competitive throughout the grid, but regardless of that as a team we haven't done a good enough job. We must correct that now in 2009.

Crash.net:
Williams were fourth at the end of 2007 in the constructors' (fifth if you include McLaren), yet this season you are eighth. Looking at that alone one might say the team has gone backwards. How would you answer that?

SM:
We didn't plan to drop from fourth in the constructors'. But there are a few reasons for that. Firstly all the teams have had ups and downs in terms of performance - regardless of where they are on the grid. The difference with Williams is that we have failed to score points at the tracks where we are strong - places like Monaco and Montreal - and it doesn't take much to see that those points would have made a significant difference to the outcome in the constructors' table. We probably wouldn't have been in a position where we could finish fourth but we would have been higher up than where we are at the moment.

Secondly we have devoted a lot of resources towards the 2009 car development because the rule changes are so big. As such we haven't been developing the FW30 for quite some time. Furthermore while I am sure others are well on with 2009 as well - and it is nothing to get excited about - re-learning how to control the principle flow structures around the car is no small task. If you are not on with it early you will be losing in 2009. That is just the aerodynamics too. There is also a need to understand the slick tyres and sort out KERS [Kinetic Energy Recovery System]. There are a couple of reasons then for why we have potentially gone backwards. But it is our job now to correct that next year.

Crash.net:
Next year the rules and regulations will change dramatically - how are preparations going for 2009?

SM:
Okay, but there is still a lot to learn with the new rules. It is a big challenge for everybody.

Crash.net:
Recently, following the FIA-FOTA meeting, it was announced that there will be 'significant cost cutting measures' in 2009 and in 2010. Can you tell us anything more about that?

SM:
I think a lot of that is still under discussion and agreement. But there does appear to be an agreement on significantly reduced engine costs in 2009. We are going to a three-race engine. The finer details of that haven't been sorted yet. The main headlines though are three-race engines and 10 million Euros for the cost of that engine for the teams. That is good news for Formula 1 because it means it is easier for people to meet their budgets.

Crash.net:
Good news for Williams too as a privateer...

SM:
Yeah, that's right.

Crash.net:
Max Mosley has come out and said spec engines might be introduced in the future. Is that something Williams would support?

SM:
Our position - and I think what is very clear, whether you are a manufacturer or an independent, is that costs have to be cut dramatically. We are not biased towards how they achieve that. It is more of a question for the manufacturers' how they do that when it comes to engines. We don't mind how they do that. We just want to see a reduction in the costs.

Crash.net:
KERS will come in next year, how is the team progressing on that front?

SM:
KERS is something we have been working on for quite sometime. It is a big challenge. We have made progress on it. But there is still a long way to go - as there is, I think, with all of the teams. Some teams have done some track running with it, including ourselves. But that doesn't mean there is not a long way to go before we get that to a position where it is competitive. There are two challenges with KERS, particularly for next year. One is just to get it reliable to start with and the second is to make sure you can get it in a position where it is actually quicker. That will be difficult in 2009 - but that is part of Formula 1.

Crash.net:
For a team will such an illustrious history - but which hasn't won now since Brazil in 2004, is there still the belief you can comeback and challenge right at the top?

SM:
Absolutely - our target is always to win races and challenge at the top. We will be back there.

Crash.net:
Could that be achievable in 2009?

SM:
I think the main thing for 2009 is to do better than this year. We want to at least get back towards that top pack.

Crash.net:
Williams have retained Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima for '09, how much will that continuity help?

SM:
That will help a lot because '09 is going to be quite a big technical challenge dominated by aero development but followed closely by tyres and KERS. Being able to concentrate on that technical side of the car and not drivers' will assist us. We will also have the same test driver in Nico Hulkenberg and all that continuity is very positive.

Crash.net:
Nakajima seems to have struggled a bit since stepping up - has he really got what it takes to be in F1?

SM:
He has scored more points this season than a lot of other drivers' that have more experience than him. He has done okay for his first year. Next year we will really see if he can step up because he will know all the tracks. He will take stock over the winter. I have seen it many times before with a rookie where they have their first year and then have the winter break and come back into the second year very strongly. I am quite sure that will happen with Kazuki as well. He is a survivor. You have only got to look at the difficult races, where there has been bad weather and safety cars and he is always there.

Crash.net:
Final question, switching back to Brazil, how do you think the battle will shape up between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa for the title?

SM:
I would expect Ferrari to dominate in Brazil. They have been so strong there in the past, particularly in recent years and including last year. I reckon Ferrari will take the constructors' and Lewis will take the drivers' championship. Both Felipe and Lewis deserve the drivers' title - but obviously the race in Brazil will decide who deserves it the most.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH SAM MICHAEL: CLICK HERE

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