The Williams team has played down claims that it was attempting to capture valuable headlines by topping the pre-season testing times at Jerez with an underweight car, insisting that Rubens Barrichello merely took advantage of an optimum, and legal, set-up on his FW33.
The Brazilian veteran led the way on the final day of the second pre-season test and, such was his advantage over the rest of the field, remained on top when the leading laps from all four days were put together. With Williams having failed to threaten at the front of the field in recent seasons, Barrichello's performance naturally attracted comment, but much of it was negative, with observers refusing to believe that the times were genuine and claiming that the car cannot have complied with minimum weight limits as the Grove team sought positive publicity ahead of its impending stock market flotation.
"Absolute nonsense," was technical director Sam Michael's response when the accusation was put to him by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport
magazine, "The time is real. Anyone who knows our team knows that we don't run underweight. The time is down to Rubens using the super-soft tyres, and of course he had a little less fuel in the tank."
"[Previously] we had only used the medium tyres and always with a relatively large amount of fuel on board. We never got the medium tyre to work and we still don't know why."
The rumour mill had suggested that the FW33 had dropped below the weight limit after having its KERS system removed for the final run, but Michael insists that the car was intact.
"The KERS elements were all on board, we only cut the connection from the generator to the engine because we had had a problem with the cooling," he explained.
The main focus for the Williams team was to continue to add mileage on the new FW33, powered by the KERS-adapted CA2011k Cosworth V8. The team completed 253 laps over the four days, with new recruit Pastor Maldonado totalling 51 laps and Barrichello amassing an impressive 202 laps over his two days.
“Jerez was another useful opportunity for teams to add miles to their new cars and for drivers to prepare for the season ahead and, although outright lap times are not indicative at this early stage of the new season, it is nonetheless nice to see Cosworth power at the top of the timesheets," the engine builder's Mark Gallagher admitted, "Williams was able to complete significant mileage on the final two days and we look forward to gathering more data from the KERS system and the CA2011k engine in Barcelona later this week."