At the start of every season, during the initial fly-away long-haul phase, teams that are struggling to perform can take heart fro knowing that things will surely get better when they get back home to Europe and start the process of rolling out major upgrades.

This year it's Sauber and Williams who are among those teams most in need of a boost, with both squads significantly further back than they were this time last year and not looking anywhere close to being in contention, often struggling even to get into the points at the end of a race.

Williams arrived at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya with a focus on evaluating new aerodynamic bodywork and on set-up work and tyre testing, as technical director Mike Coughlan explained.

"We continued to work through some aerodynamic comparisons today," he said. "We ran a number of different upgrades across both cars, and the initial results are as expected. We have made some small steps but there is still a lot of work to do.

"We lost some time during FP1 due to the wet weather but we completed our planned programme," he confirmed. "In FP2 we did some further tyre work and our long run pace looks more competitive," he continued, adding: "We'll spend tonight analysing all the data and aim to continuing progressing tomorrow."

"We feel a little more positive," said Pastor Maldonado at the end of Friday's track activity. "We will analyse everything we tested today and hope to show the improvements in qualifying tomorrow."

His team mate, 2013 F1 rookie Valtteri Bottas, described Friday as "an interesting day for us," and appeared cautiously optimistic. "The initial feeling is that we are starting to take steps forward."

Over in the Sauber F1 garage the team said that they were pleased with the evaluation work on their own aerodynamics upgrade package as far as they'd got in the rain-hit morning session, but that the afternoon focus was on tyre comparisons combined with high fuel loads had gone less well.

"We split the programme between the two cars to gather as much data as possible," explained Tom McCullough, Sauber's head of track engineering. "It's clear we have some work to do."

"The day was okay," insisted Nico H?lkenberg. "Unfortunately we could not run our aero programme as planned due to the rain in the first session this morning, but you can't change the weather and the situation was the same for everyone.

"We were able to work through the whole programme during the second free practice without any problems," he added. "The new rear wing is an improvement. However, if it's enough of an improvement to catch up to our competition I can't say yet."

"The stability of the car has improved, which gives me more confidence to push during the long runs," contributed his team mate Esteban Guti?rrez. "We were able to analyse the new parts we brought to Barcelona. The team is doing a good job and we are pushing to be able to close the gap to our competition.

"It's hard to judge where we stand at the moment," he admitted. "I think qualifying [on Saturday] will show where we are at compared to the rest of the field."



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