AT&T Williams will embark on a new era when the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship gets underway in Bahrain this weekend as it welcomes an all-new driver pairing, as well as the return of engine suppliers Cosworth.
An enticing line-up that marries experience with youth, 2009 front runner Rubens Barrichello will be joined in the team by GP2 Series champion and F1 rookie Nico Hülkenberg.
Having started more grands prix than any other driver, the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix will mark the start of Barichello's 18th season, while the race itself will be his 289th at F1 level. Despite this, the Brazilian is shrugging off his 38 years of age, insisting he has never felt fitter.
“I'm delighted to be entering my eighteenth season,” the eleven-time race winner said. “I'm so motivated and I'm in a much better physical condition than I have been at any other time. I'm also really happy to be driving for AT&T Williams. I've settled in well, and I already feel like I've been here five years!
“We covered a lot of miles with the car during winter testing, working on reliability during the first few tests and then some upgrades for Bahrain at the final two. In terms of set-up, reliability and drivability of the engine, we've done a good job. The car has improved a lot and the team have done well preparing me so I'm completely familiar with everything heading into the first race.
“I think we're strong, I'm optimistic, but it is very hard to draw a conclusion as to where we are so I'm going to wait and see. It's going to be a fantastic season with the new teams, the new drivers and the new regulations.”
Although he is the antithesis of his team-mate in terms of experience, Hülkenberg's knowledge of the team through his term as test driver ensures he won't be starting completely from scratch when racing gets underway.
“Being a Formula One driver is a great feeling and I'm very excited about going to Bahrain,” said Hulkenberg, who won A1GP, F3 Euroseries and GP2 titles on the way to F1. “I learnt a lot as the team's test driver, which has prepared me well for the season ahead. Working in the factory has also helped give me more of a technical understanding of the car, it won't make me quicker, but it will help me with set-up.
“Winter testing was good for us. Having completed a good amount of mileage, we are well placed going into the season. The Cosworth engine is also looking strong; it's powerful and reliable. We have potential, but we have to wait to see where the competition is. It's going to be an exciting season and I can't wait to start it!”