The Williams team admitted that Saturday had been "a tough day" for all concerned, culminating in a frustrating experience in the qualifying session for the 2012 F1 Grand prix of Japan at Suzuka.

Pastor Maldonado came out early in Q1 but then returned to the pits to have his car checked over, only emerging with around eight minutes remaining in the session. Opting for the soft compounds straight away ensured that he made it through comfortably to the second round, but that was as far as he got.

"We've been working hard to make the car more competitive but for one reason or another, we just couldn't pull it all together today," he admitted. "We need to try to understand why."

The team's chief operations engineer Mark Gillan added that Maldonado had been "struggling with car balance which ultimately limited his potential pace."

The team was more aggrieved by what happened to Bruno Senna, who was baulked by Jean-Eric Verge on his final flying lap attempt which left him in 18th place and unable to progress any further in the session.

Vergne later received a three-place grid penalty from the stewards for the incident, but that hardly helped Senna who had already been knocked out.

"It was a frustrating qualifying session as I was held up on my final timed lap at the end of Q1 and couldn't post the time that I wanted," he said.

"Bruno was looking very comfortable to proceed into Q2 alongside Pastor, having been 0.6s up on his previous run," said Gillan. "Vergne blocked his lap slowing him by 1.6s and leaving Bruno extremely frustrated in 18th."

On the bright side, grid penalties for other drivers give both Williams drivers a two position advancement on the grid: Maldonado will start from 12th alongside Paul di Resta, while Bruno Senna is in 16th place alongside Nico Hulkenberg for the start of Sunday's race.

"We are confident with our race pace going into tomorrow," said Gillan, a feeling shared by both his drivers.

"Tomorrow is going to be a long race so I'm quite optimistic," pointed out Maldonado. "The gaps are so close and our longer run pace looks encouraging, so we aim to push for some points tomorrow."

"It's a long race tomorrow," agreed Senna. "And although this track is difficult to overtake at, we've been in this position before and so we'll give it our best shot to score some points in the race."