Williams was left lamenting a 'troublesome' day Down Under as both of its drivers encountered difficulties ahead of and during qualifying for this weekend's F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – but encouragingly, Rubens Barrichello reveals the Cosworth-powered FW33 is 'quicker than we thought'.
The precedent was arguably set in FP3 when a gearbox issue for Brazilian veteran Barrichello and a spin for Venezuelan rookie Pastor Maldonado limited running, and both men saw their qualifying efforts come to an abrupt end in Q2.
For Barrichello, it was particularly embarrassing, as the only driver in F1 history with more than 300 grand prix starts under his belt uncharacteristically put a wheel onto the grass approaching the infamous Turn Three on his first lap, leaving the 38-year-old frustratedly beached in the gravel trap and a lowly 17th on the starting grid.
“Today was unfortunate,” reflected the likeable Paulista. “I made a mistake, went wide and spun. We have to wait and see what our pace is, but it was quicker than we thought it would be. On another positive note, we've saved our tyres for tomorrow, which could be important.”
Maldonado, meanwhile, will begin his maiden F1 outing directly ahead of his ultra-experienced team-mate in 15th, the 26-year-old's efforts to progress any further stymied by yellow flags and a flat-spotted tyre.
“I made it through Q1 fine and everything was going well,” reported the reigning GP2 Series Champion. “On the first set of tyres in Q2, I had two yellow flags; with the second set, I had a big flat-spot and had to abort the run. The session was exciting, though! We need to improve a bit, but overall the car is good and I feel optimistic. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and I really think points are possible.”
“We've had a troublesome day,” summarised the Grove-based outfit's technical director Sam Michael, “and although we have to improve, the end result does not reflect our true pace. With Pastor's spin and the oil leak on Rubens' gearbox, the mileage we were able to cover in practice was considerably restricted and caused us to be conservative with some of our set-up choices for the race.
“We had another 'off' in qualifying, this time with Rubens, but Pastor kept his head down and is now looking ahead to a solid race. Tomorrow's focus is firmly on scoring points with both cars. It will also be interesting to see the moveable rear wing working as intended and delivering some exciting overtaking!”