Pastor Maldonado will see his hard work in qualifying suffer a blow after being hit with a five-place grid penalty for an overnight gearbox change at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Venezuelan, who recorded his first finish of the season in China after late disappointments in both Australia and Malaysia, was forced to make the switch after Williams
engineers found a fault in the existing unit that could prove terminal if used for what would have been its fourth straight race. Gearboxes are required to last for five consecutive race weekends, and both Lewis Hamilton
and Kimi Raikkonen
have already fallen foul of the regulation after requiring changes in China and Malaysia respectively.
Friday wasn't the best of days for Williams, although Maldonado eventually finished 15th fastest in the day's second 90-minute practice session. The 2010 GP2
champion revealed that outright pace hadn't been the name of the game, but the penalty will still set him back as he seeks to continue Williams' promising start to the season.
"It was a busy day, but we completed our programme," Maldonado reported before news of the setback broke, "We were concentrating more on our race pace, but I feel happy as, overall, the car is looking consistent. I'm looking forward to getting into qualifying tomorrow."
With reserve driver Valtteri Bottas joining Maldonado on track in FP1, Bruno Senna had limited track time to get up to speed, and ended the day 21st overall, four places behind the Venezuelan on the combined timesheets, with Bottas nestled between them.
"It was quite a difficult day, with tough track conditions," Senna commented, "We found a good direction for the car though, and our long runs this afternoon looked consistent. We just need to keep chipping away to ensure an optimum set-up for the race.
"Unfortunately Bruno's track time was compromised by a small electrical problem, which was quickly diagnosed and resolved," chief operations engineer Mark Gillan added, "Both sessions were dominated by the performance of the medium and soft tyres as we worked to optimise the set-ups to balance the car for the difficult track conditions. We improved both cars from the morning session to the afternoon, but still have work to do to improve things further ahead of qualifying and the race."