Both Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in the history of the sport, and his Williams‘ team-mate Pastor Maldonado, one of the new rookie drivers starting their debut season, are eagerly anticipating this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, and the start of racing in 2011.
Barrichello, for whom the race in Melbourne will be his 304th start, has not lost any of his enthusiasm. “Everyone is doubly excited about the first race as we should already have been racing by now,” says the Brazilian. “It was great to get more time at home with the kids but I want to get started and can't wait to see the red lights go out in Melbourne and for the season to be officially underway.
“It is always an exciting moment when everyone lines up on the grid with no points on the board. I always fantasise a little about what could be, but I keep my feet on the ground and focus on the race ahead. I am absolutely looking forward to getting to Australia.”
Maldonado has never even been to Melbourne before, but the 25-year-old shares his team-mate’s excitement, and has set himself a clear target for his first F1 race.
“I feel more than ready to start my first season in Formula One,” said the third Venezuelan driver to compete in the sport. “I have never been to Melbourne before but we've done a good amount of testing which will add to the time I have spent learning the circuit in our simulator.
“I am now just looking forward to going racing. It will be a very exciting moment. My aim this weekend is to get a solid finish, and to score some points.”
Williams technical director Sam Michael is unsure as to how the new Pirelli tyres will behave on the Albert Park circuit, but thinks that the team are well-prepared for this opening race. “Melbourne is a typical street circuit,” he explains. “It will be interesting to go there for the first time with Pirelli tyres, although there should be less stress on the tyres there than there has been at some of the higher speed test tracks we have been to so far.
“Albert Park evolves over the course of the weekend because the circuit is made up of predominantly public roads. This means that the track is slippery at the start of the weekend, but grip levels improve as rubber is put down on the racing line, largely done through all the practice sessions which help to clear oil and contaminants from the surface.
“The FW33 is fully prepared for the first race of the season. Regarding the aero package, we have all the parts that we ran on the final days of testing in Barcelona, plus a few additional changes that we will test on Friday.
“The main focus over the course of the first few races is, of course, performance, but also to ensure that the car is reliable. We will also find out where we sit in the order. Overall, we are just looking forward to getting out there and going racing again!”