Before the first race of the 2014 F1 world championship in Australia, much of the talk was whether or not Williams might be on the brink of a stunning resurgence in form after a frankly nightmarish time of it last season.

Fifth place for Valtteri Bottas in Melbourne was followed by seventh and eighth places for Felipe Massa and Bottas respectively in Malaysia, but they still seem some way off getting to the front and competing for a podium place on equal footing with the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari any time soon.

"A podium is definitely our target," insisted Williams' chief operations engineer Rod Nelson. "I'm quite optimistic for Bahrain, we've obviously done a lot of running there as most other people have as well, but we've got a very good idea of where we are in the pecking order in Bahrain."

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As for why the team didn't shine in Malaysia, Nelson put it down to a poor qualifying session on Saturday and then some unfortunate jostling at the start of the race for Massa.

"We definitely underwhelmed in Q2 and I think we made the best of a bad job, so it's quite satisfying from the start of the day to the end of the day is pretty good if you don't include [qualifying}," he said. "Today - or yesterday in the dry - we would probably be third or fourth is my guess.

"There was a bit of wheelbanging at the start between Felipe and [McLaren's Kevin] Magnussen which affected our race fairly significantly," he added. "We made it difficult for ourselves, it's a challenge!"

As for where he felt Williams really stood compared with their rivals on the grid, Nelson gave the team an upbeat review. "This weekend we had the legs on McLaren, and Ferrari are obviously looking stronger than they have been during winter testing as well," he said

After the Malaysian Grand Prix, Bottas speculated that a lack of downforce had contributed to his inability to get the power down quickly enough during the race, but Nelson said the matter was more complicated than that.

"It's not a lack of downforce, it's a lack of drag," he explained. "You've got to look at the weekend holistically when you've got to say, 'Where do you want to put your car?' Do you want to be quick in qualie at a certain type of track, or do you want to be quick in the race at another kind of track?

"You have to look at the whole year and look at the circuits we go to and the level of drag that we're prepared to take, and part of that equation is the amount of fuel you need to carry," he continued. "If you take the rear wing off the car then you'll use three-quarters of the amount of fuel, but that's going to be bad in another respect.

"You have to make that balance and maybe we've made that balance differently from some other teams and sometimes it benefits us and sometimes it detracts," he admitted.

Bottas was also left fuming at the end of the race after Massa refused to obey a team instruction to allow Bottas past and attempt to overtake McLaren's Jenson Button running just ahead. Nelson agreed that teams might see more of these situations under the new regulations where the complicated Power Units are capable of proving very different capabilities to a team's cars at any given moment of a race.

"There's certainly potential for there to be larger speed differentials between cars this year than there has been certainly two or three years ago," he said. "Part of that's maybe tyres, part of it is the huge amount of torque that the engines generate which obviously impacts on tyres as well," he said. "You can strategise about how you want to overtake people, you can take two or three laps and make sure your KERS is charged and everything before you have a go at it, and that's something that we haven't done since we have three engines.

"In the old days, when you had engines revving to 20,000 revs, you'd have maybe three laps at 20,000, ten laps at 19,800, 15 at 19,400 - you'd use that allocation throughout the weekend. We've got a similar situation although much more complex now with the Power Unit."

All these new complex technologies and process are making it an extremely busy time for all the teams including Williams, and Nelson was looking forward to adding Rob Smedley to the line-up as Head of Vehicle Performance, a role created specially for the former Ferrari race engineer.

"He'll be going straight to Bahrain, so I hope we've got some team kit for him," chuckled Nelson.