Rubens Barrichello - the most experienced driver in F1 history - was effusive in his praise for Williams following Sunday's European Grand Prix in Valencia, after finishing in a superb fourth place to crown unquestionably the team's strongest showing of the 2010 campaign to-date.

Having lined up respectively eighth and ninth on the starting grid - on identical lap times, and marking only the second time this year that both have made the final top ten shoot-out - Nico H?lkenberg and Barrichello went on to have differing races under the Spanish sunshine.

The former ran in a points-scoring position early on until he found himself badly compromised by the timing of the safety car and ultimately retired with an exhaust failure shortly after half-distance, whilst the latter spent the majority of the grand prix artfully fending off the advances of Renault rival Robert Kubica to take a wholly-merited fourth at the chequered flag - and with it give Williams a welcome shot-in-the-arm.

"It was great fun out there and the car was behaving well throughout the race," enthused the veteran Brazilian. "We really seem to be heading in the right direction with the development of the car, and I hope that this improved performance continues for the rest of the season."

"It was going really well and points were definitely possible," added H?lkenberg. "I was running in tenth before the safety car came out. It wasn't good timing for me because I had called in a flat-spot on my tyre half a lap earlier and wanted to pit, but by then it was too late.

"Combined with having to stack, I really lost all my places there. When the safety car came in I couldn't keep [Fernando] Alonso behind me, but after that it was quite a processional race up until something caught fire on my car. That obviously ended it for me."

Nonetheless, the twelve points tallied by Barrichello have vaulted Williams well clear of closest rival Scuderia Toro Rosso in the constructors' standings, and the Grove-based outfit's technical director Sam Michael is hopeful of building on that progress as the team returns next to home turf - and the scene of its maiden grand prix victory more than three decades ago.

"That was a good performance by both cars," summarised the softly-spoken Aussie, "and definitely a step forward. Unfortunately, an exhaust failure cost Nico a possible point and we will be investigating the cause back at the factory. The team is now looking forward to its home race at Silverstone, and to consolidating the step in performance we've made with further upgrades for the FW32."