March 22nd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The first and second Free Practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix have not gone according to plan for Williams. The team was surprised to be far off the pace at last weekend's season opener in Melbourne, and it looks like more of the same this weekend in Sepang.
Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan said after the day's running, "We haven’t made the progress we had hoped for today. We need to look at the data we have from both sessions to maximise the package we have. We will then head straight back to the factory to work on some improvements ahead of Shanghai."
It looks like for whatever reason Williams' pre-season form has not carried through to the races. It could be that they misjudged their performance, it could be that the car is suited to the Barcelona track where it completed all of its pre-season running and won the race in 2012, or it could be that the car performs better in cooler temperatures as seen in pre-season testing. What seems clear is that the Williams team have no immediate solutions.
The drivers echoed the disappointment Coughlan had expressed, with Maldonado saying, "We didn’t have the pace today unfortunately. We need to analyse the data tonight to see what we can do. We have a lot of work to do but we’ll be pushing hard to see what we can achieve tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas was slightly more pragmatic: "We had a number of parts to test today following the race in Melbourne and we were evaluating different things between the two cars. We will analyse the data to see what worked well and make some decisions for qualifying tomorrow. We hope to find some improvements, but we know we still have a lot of work to do to close the gap."
One possibility that could work in Williams' favour is the weather. Rain is forecast for Saturday and Sunday, but is likely to arrive late in the afternoon. If it rains early enough to affect qualifying and the race, then the lack of performance in the FW35 could be less of a handicap and Maldonado and Bottas could be able to score decent results.