Q&A WITH SAM MICHAEL, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Q: What areas of the new car did the team focus on yesterday in Valencia?
SM: We did a couple of really basic mechanical tests and some aero mapping scans to make sure the car is doing what it is meant to do. Everything is working as it should and all the loads have measured correctly.
Q. So, overall, a successful first day?
SM: It was a good day in terms of getting through things. Aside from a problem with KERS in the morning, everything else on the car is fine. Our plan for the rest of the week is to cover more mileage and slowly introduce the new systems we have.
Q: What was the problem with the KERS?
SM: We had an issue with the Motor Generator Unit (MGU) mid-morning which cost us about two and a half hours. We knew what the problem was so we just disconnected the system and didn't run it in the afternoon. There were no major concerns with temperatures or with any of the other systems. In total, we ran for 78 laps, which was good considering the time we lost.
Q: The team is using a battery version of KERS this season. How was it developed?
SM: There are three main parts to the KERS. The battery pack is designed and assembled by Williams, but we source the actual battery cells externally. This is a much more cost effective way of doing it for a company like ours. The second part is the MGU and associated electronics that were also developed in-house. Lastly, there is the mechanical drive to the engine from Cosworth.
Q: There has been a lot of interest in the rear end of the FW33, what is the philosophy behind the new design?
SM: The main changes revolve around the gearbox casing and location of the differential. Like most other teams, the target is to have as much clear flow to the rear wing assembly as possible. It is clear that we have lifted the top wishbone and track rod, and opted for a Z-bone layout, which was commonly used in the early 1990s. Using a pull-rod was an easy decision for our particular design, as it means there's less blockage to the rear. This is the smallest and lowest gearbox we have ever made, with the most extreme driveshaft design. We made all these major decisions in March 2010 and have subsequently worked hard to ensure reliability through plenty of mileage on the dyno.
Q: How quick is the rear wing flap activated and how is it working?
SM: With a hydraulic system, we're down to a few milliseconds to activate. When the driver comes off the button or applies the brakes it returns to the high downforce position. While testing the system in the simulator, we asked the driver to hold the button down and allow the system to automatically bring it back when applying the brakes, but there were certain situations where you want the driver to bring it back before he touches the brakes.
Q: How are the new Pirelli tyres performing?
SM: It's early days. There is some wear, but we aren't experiencing any considerable graining. We haven't done enough running to get where we want to be on set-up yet so we aren't getting the best out of the tyres. The medium tyres do look quite stiff in these conditions, though.
Q: Rubens has spoken about the number of buttons on the steering wheel this season. Is that a concern?
SM: It is quite busy in the cockpit for sure, particularly now with the re-introduction of KERS. We saw signs of that in the simulator over the winter as well. The loading on the driver is something new that they will have to get used to.
Q: Has it altered the steering wheel design for this year?
SM: Not really. Some buttons have been re-arranged to allow the driver to activate items like the rear wing more easily because as soon as you come out a corner the driver has to be on the button to reduce the drag, but the layout is fairly similar to last year.
Q: The race trucks and team clothing look quite basic. Is there a problem with partners for 2011?
SM: No, not at all. As has been stated many times over the winter, we have a full budget for 2011. We are running an interim livery on the car and the mechanics are wearing a basic uniform because we aren't launching the race livery until the end of February and don't want to ruin the surprise!