Pastor Maldonado has revealed that a 'risky' decision to run with Williams' new rear wing was what allowed him to make it through to the top-ten shootout today and eventually qualify in ninth place for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
The GP2 graduate and F1 rookie had struggled a bit in practice and was only 13th overall this morning in FP3.
However, it all came good in qualifying and for the very first time he made it through to the third session, eventually ending up just 0.064 seconds off Felipe Massa's Ferrari in P8. It was also the first time this year Williams has got into Q3.
“I am really happy for the team and all the guys,” Maldonado reflected. “We've tried really hard to find a good balance all weekend. Yesterday's practice, particularly the first session, was really difficult for me. The car wasn't great so we took a bit of a risk and decided to run the new rear wing in qualifying.
“The car seems more competitive, but we still need to keep pushing and improve. I am happy today.”
Rubens Barrichello meanwhile had a more difficult time in the sister car and was forced out in Q1 due to a gearbox problem. He will start 19th.
“I knew we had a gearbox problem as soon as I went out in Q1 as it felt strange,” the Brazilian noted.
“I think there is a big positive in saving a set of tyres, which is one way of looking at it, but having seen where Pastor finished, we could also have had a good shot inside the top ten. I will be pushing to be there tomorrow.”
“We had a gearbox problem on Rubens' car so we're looking into that now,” added Williams technical director, Sam Michael. “He's fairly low down the order but, taking into consideration our pace and the fact that he will have new tyres, he should be able to make good progress.
“Thanks to everyone at the factory for their efforts in getting the new rear wings out here. We still have a lot of work to keep progressing. But it was a great effort by Pastor today to put Williams back into the top ten in qualifying. The next step is to get some points.”