Valtteri Bottas overcame a slow start to Williams' first day of pre-season testing to claim that the team's 2015 car was already on a par with last year's.
The Finn was entrusted with the first run of the new FW37, but had to wait a while as the team put the finishing touches to the car. Once on track, however, 2014's surprise package was able to complete 72 laps of the Jerez de la Frontera circuit and, despite not setting the timesheets alight, was pleased with his day's work.
“[It felt] pretty good,” he reported, “It was a bit of a slow start for us as we've had some delays - some parts were a bit late so everything was a bit on the limit to get ready for the first day but, after we got running, everything went really well.
“We had quite a few laps although, obviously, we lost some time in the morning, but everything went well. The car was working well, very reliable, and the initial feeling was good, so I feel it is a good base to start building a better car. All in all, it was a good first day but we need to make sure that, tomorrow, when it is 9 o'clock, we are out of the garage….”
Although the FW36 was good enough to take the fight to F1's frontrunners on occasion in 2014, Bottas already believes that Williams is picking up from where it left off, claiming that the FW37 to be a step forward over its predecessor.
“This is only the first day and we will improve massively during testing and during the season as well,” he said, “I think we have already improved with the aerodynamics. They are more consistent through the corner, which was a nice thing to feel as you get more trust in the car. It was already good to drive last year, but it feels like this one is a bit better already.”
As always, the first day of testing gives no real clues to the pecking order for the rest of the season, and Bottas was quick to point out that, with a long way to go until the opening race in Melbourne in March, much will change.
“We still have lots more to do to unlock more performance, but we don't need to do it here,” he insisted, “We still have plenty of time and we just need to find everything we can about the car and how it responds to all the set-up changes. We have plenty of aero tests and parts to try, so it's going to be a busy few days - but very, very important.”
The Finn, who helped guide a resurgent Williams to third spot in the constructors' table last season, admitted that there were unlikely to be too many developments during the Jerez test, even though the team was working hard on improving its initial package.
“I think we're going to use these days here to experience the car and put mileage on it, check the reliability, learn from it and then get some bits onto the car later, maybe Barcelona,” he noted, “I don't think it's time here to start focusing on the pure performance - we need to get the basic things correct first.”
“We are really determined to do better because now the difficult part starts. If you want to move up from third place in the constructors', it's not simple. We know it's a big challenge, but we are definitely ready for it because, as a team, we improved so much already last year. Now it's a new year, so we have to make sure at least that we start from the same level that we finished last season and build from that.
“It's very early days, and it's impossible to predict where we're going to be in Melbourne, so we just need to try and make the most of testing. What I know now is that we have a good base car to build from and the initial feeling is good.”