Rubens Barrichello has confessed that he was not even attempting to overtake Mercedes Grand Prix rival Nico Rosberg in the accident that ended the young German's Australian Grand Prix today – but despite being one of only two teams to notch up a double DNF Down Under, the Brazilian is convinced Williams' promising new Cosworth-powered FW33 has considerable potential.
The most experienced driver in F1 history, Barrichello's scrappy Melbourne weekend was not one of the finer moments in his 19-year grand prix career, with an uncharacteristic spin during the second phase of qualifying leaving him beached in the Turn Three gravel trap and a lowly 17th on the starting grid. From there, on the opening lap of the race, the 38-year-old found himself edged wide – again in Turn Three – and sent across the gravel, dropping him to practically the rear of the field.
'Rubinho' went on to produce a stirring performance to scythe his way back up the order with all the passion, enthusiasm, energy and brio of a driver half his age – but as he rapidly homed in on eighth-placed Rosberg on lap 22, it all ended in tears, once more at Turn Three, as Barrichello clattered clumsily into the side of the Mercedes, pitching his Williams into a half-spin and precipitating his adversary's retirement shortly afterwards with smoke pouring from his car. He himself would last a further 26 laps before departing the fray with transmission woes.
“It was a tough race for us,” reflected the popular Paulista. “I was pushed out a little bit at the start, but then I had a good rhythm going and was doing quite a lot of overtaking until the incident with Rosberg. I wasn't planning on overtaking him at that point – I was defending from [Kamui] Kobayashi.
“I think we had one tyre with grip and one with less, so we had different braking points. Rosberg braked earlier, and was already in the middle of the corner before I could stop the car. The '33' was competitive today, though, which is positive going into the next race.”
Rookie team-mate Pastor Maldonado was similarly forced out of contention on his grand prix debut with transmission failure as early as lap nine – but the Venezuelan is determined to put the disappointment swiftly behind him, by switching his focus instead to his second outing at Sepang in a fortnight's time.
“We don't know exactly what happened with the car,” mused the GP2 Series graduate. “We will have to look into the problem with our engineers. There was no warning – we just stopped, and that was it for us. The start was great, though – there were some big moments going into the first two corners, but I came through them okay. I was then getting settled into the race, everything was feeling okay in the car, I felt good and then it went. I'll now just look forward to getting back out there again in Malaysia.”
“After problems with the sector settings on the moveable rear wing, Rubens' FW33 had a strong opening pace and he was progressing well through the field, setting competitive lap times,” summarised Williams technical director Sam Michael. “We then had a slow leak on the front tyre, so we stopped to avoid a failure.
“Rubens made a good recovery, and he was making progress when he came together with Rosberg's Mercedes and the front wing failed. We chose to continue in order to gather data on the tyres and KERS. Towards the end of the race, Rubens retired with a suspected transmission issue. We had a transmission failure on Pastor's car early on in the race, and we are currently investigating both problems. We take away quite a lot of data from this weekend.”