Williams have had a pretty disastrous start to their 2011 campaign. After some bullish comments about a car design that pushed boundaries and would go someway to making the Grove-based outfit a team that could once again fight for race wins in the pre-sesaon period, the first two races have passed without either driver even reaching the checkered flag, let alone scoring any points.
Rubens Barrichello, however, thinks that the FW33 is a fundamentally good car, and can be competitive. Speaking before the on-track action in China this weekend, the Brazilian thinks that new parts should improve Williams‘ chances.
“[I] think we can be competitive because we have some new parts to try here,” he said. “If we can get them to work as we hope, and be reliable, I think a top six position in qualifying is possible. Even if we have to revert to the old layout, we'll be looking at top 12 because the FW33 is a good car.”
“It hasn't been the dream start that we all wanted and it's been hard not to be disappointed,” he added. “But everyone's working flat-out to turn the situation around and we're hoping for a much brighter weekend here than we had in Malaysia.”
When asked what he had been up to since last weekend’s race in Malaysia, Barrichello revealed that he had remained in Asia, competing in another sport. “I went to Thailand, which was fantastic,” he said. “The weather was great and I bumped into a few people from the F1 paddock, like Christian Horner and David Coulthard. I played a bit of golf while I was there and I'll be keeping a close eye on this weekend's Malaysian Open. I've played at the club where the Open's taking place, so I know what the guys will be going through.”
China hold some fond memories for Barrichello. He won the inaugural race here back in 2004 when he was a Ferrari driver. “My abiding memory [of that day] is having a champagne shower with [Ferrari president] Mr Montezemolo on the podium!,” he recalls. “It was quite a tough race because everyone had a lot of graining on the front tyres, but I was able to hold on until the end.”
Team-mate Pastor Maldonado has never raced at Shanghai before but, despite this, is positive about this weekend. “I'm happy; I think we can get a good result,” said the Venezuelan rookie. “We've had a frustrating start to the year, for sure, but the reason it's been frustrating is because we haven't realised the potential of the car. We keep getting stopped by little problems, but we need to keep working and keep doing our best.”
In fact, he has an ambition target for this weekend: “To finish in the points. Our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, although we're hoping to improve our qualifying pace here with a few set-up changes.”
Maldonado walked the track for the first time on Wednesday, and has experience of driving it on the Williams simulator. However, his lack of mileage here has not affected his confidence. “I'm very confident when I'm in the car, which is one of my good characteristics as a driver,” he claims. “I don't need to run thousands of miles to get used to the car. I just need a trouble-free weekend in order to show everyone what I can do.”
Naturally, to improve the performance, Williams have been bringing updates to the FW33 at almost races and Maldonado has said that he can see the difference that these new parts make.
“The new front wing in Malaysia made a small difference; everything is a step in the right direction,” he explained. “We have a bigger step on Rubens' car here and we're excited to see how it works out. There hasn't been enough time to get two lots of the update to China, but if it works out as we hope, it will be on my car at the next race in Turkey.”