After a troubled Friday practice for Williams at Suzuka, which included a hefty 60,000 euro fine for the team afte a wheel detached itself from Pastor Maldonado's car in the morning session, qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix proved to be a much more upbeat affair for the team and drivers Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado.

Both drivers survived Q1 to make it through to Q2, in Bottas case by two tenths of a second despite a manic final few minutes after the track reopened following a suspension while a smoking Toro Rosso was removed from the trackside. The Finn went on to put in a solid Q2 effort to clinch 13th place on the grid by the time the chequered flag came out.

"We were fighting for positions higher than we expected today after a very close qualifying session," said an encouraged Bottas. "It was a welcome surprise and we can be happy with P13 today. For the race tomorrow we are hoping to be able to challenge the cars around us and fight for the top ten."

Related Articles

Maldonado had a closer call of it in Q1 - he escaped being knocked out by Force India's Adrian Sutil by only 0.015s. In the second phase of qualifying, he was able to finish ahead of Daniel Ricciardo with the team preoccupied with making sure that the Australian wasn't about to go up in flames because of locked brakes like his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne had a few minutes earlier.

Despite not quite being able to match his team mate in Q2, Maldonado was satisfied that he's got as much out of the car as there was available.

"We managed to get 100 per cent out of the car today and are just about where we expected," he said. "We didn't get a lot of running yesterday after the problem with the wheel and the accident in the afternoon. Overall it wasn't a bad today so we'll now see what we can do tomorrow in the race."

Williams' chief race engineer admitted that the team had been struggling for grip in the practice sessions and had been expecting a difficult qualifying, with their preparation not helped by the strong gusty winds blowing over Suzuka.

"We knew if we could put together a clean lap on the medium tyre we had a chance to be closer to the competition than at previous races," he said. "Both drivers delivered a single clean lap when required to qualify 13th and 15th. Even though the grid position is only a small step forward, we are much closer in terms of performance as a single tenth of a second would have jumped us much further up the order in Q2.

"This track is going to be hard on tyres for everyone tomorrow, so with the right strategy we have an opportunity to fight for some points in the race," he added.