While all eyes will be on the front rows of the grid for the start of the 2013 F1 Spanish Grand Prix, it's never simply all about Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus - or even seeing whether McLaren's woes are as bad in race trim as they've appeared so far in Barcelona.

The other teams largely relegated to the lower half of the grid also have their hopes and aspirations for today's race at the Circuit de Catalunya - not the least of them being Williams' Pastor Maldonado, who is seeking to recapture some of the glory he came by here last year.

"We're having a difficult time with the car at the moment," the Venezuelan admitted. "But we have been working very hard to improve things. We were missing a lot of grip which made it difficult to get a good time today. In terms of performance, we're not there but we will keep focussing on the work needed to move us up the grid."

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"I still think we can climb up the grid as our race pace looks good," added his team mate, Finnish rookie Valtteri Bottas who will start one spot ahead in 16th. "I still think we've made a step forward and we're heading in the right direction ... Hopefully we can keep making the same steps race-by-race."

Both Williams cars failed to make it through to Q2 in qualifying on Saturday, putting them in the company of Marussia and Caterham. Giedo van der Garde won the 'battle of the back row' this week and will start from 18th place.

"We made a few changes to the car overnight to try and find a balance with the new parts and it's worked out really well," said the Dutch driver after a successful qualifying run. "There's more to come, in the race [Sunday], and with more new parts for the rest of the year and this is a great way to kick off the
European season."

Unfortunately van der Garden's more experienced team mate Charles Pic didn't get the same boost in Barcelona and anchors the starting grid in 22nd place.

"On the positive side, we know we have good long run pace and I think we can have a decent race," Pic insisted. "The weather's supposed to be a bit warmer and that'll suit our car better than the cooler conditions we've had so far this weekend. Our pitstops have been good all year and our tyre degradation here has not been too bad on both compounds, so I think we should be okay for the race."

In between the Caterhams are the two Marussias, and although Max Chilton said that he was looking forward to the race despiet starting from 21st position, his team mate Jules Bianchi confessed that his car was not well-balanced on Saturday and that he's struggled to get the best out of it on his way to 20th on the grid.

"We need to go through the data and understand what I can do in the race [today] to manage these situations," he said. "We need a good start to get ahead of van der Garde but I think we will see some improvement [in the GP] in terms of our race pace."

Also in among the back markers are the two Saubers of Nico H?lkenberg and Esteban Guti?rrez. H?lkenberg qualified in 15th place, but his rookie team mate was demoted to 19th after being found guilty of impeding a rival during qualifying on Saturday.

"I am very satisfied with my lap in Q2, it was the perfect lap," insisted H?lkenberg, calling the new upgrades on the car this weekend a step in the right direction for the team. "I think we can be satisfied with what we have done, but we simply need to find more speed," he admitted.

Force India's Adrian Sutil was also unexpectedly low down on the grid in Barcelona this weekend in 13th place today's Grand Prix while his team mate Paul di Resta will start several places ahead just inside the top ten despite his scare on Friday with a dramatically failed tyre in free practice.

"I'm sure my car is going to work well [in the race], but it's so tough to overtake here and qualifying position is very important," admitted Sutil, who explained why his Q2 time had been such a disappointment.

"Vergne pulled out of the pits just as I was leaving and I had Nico pushing from behind," he said. "Also Webber was on a flying lap and it was difficult to find a gap. I think that's the main reason why I missed out on Q3 because we had the pace to be in the top ten."

Further up the grid, di Resta has other things to worry about come the start of today's race.

"Tyre wear will play a big role," he said. "This place is one of the hardest tracks for the tyres. Hopefully that will work to our advantage and we can make some progress with a good strategy and not spend too much time in the pit lane. There will obviously be a lot of cars behind me with new tyres, so the race to the first corner will be crucial.

Sandwiched between the Force Indias is an all-Toro Rosso sixth row marking the dividing line between the front and back halves of the grid: Daniel Ricciardo edged his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne in qualifying by a shade under four hundredths of a second, emphasising the parity between the Australian and the Frenchman.

"We are close and we can have a good race," said Ricciardo. "We have made progress and we are once again looking as competitive as we did in China."

"There are a lot of positives to take from [qualifying, starting with the fact my car's set-up will be even better suited to race conditions," added Vergne. "Twelfth is a good place to start and points should be on the agenda.

"So far it has been a good weekend and I am feeling very confident," he added.

Whether that confidence is born out in the race will soon be been. And as for whether any of the drivers in the bottom half of the grid can produce a shock upset to rival that of Maldonado in 2012, that's a very big ask indeed.

But as long as everyone stays safe and no one sets fire to their pit garage, it should be a fun afternoon in the Spanish spun for the first Grand Prix of the European leg of the 2013 F1 world championship season.