April 19th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Williams may not have set the timing screens alight in practice for this Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, but the team sounds slightly more confident about the race pace of the FW35 in Bahrain this weekend. Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas finished the second practice session 16th and 17th respectively.
The first four races of the season, of which Bahrain is the fourth, provide a significant development challenge for the teams, as they are so far away from their factories, all of which are in Europe and most in England. For Williams, this is a particular problem as they have had a poor start to the season and could do with some serious upgrades to their car. But the distances involved in sending new parts from the factory to the races, coupled with the challenge of not having the race team at the factory to assist with development work, make it next to impossible for Williams to make serious progress towards the front of the field until the team returns to Europe after this weekend.
So an important part of Friday practice in Bahrain is collection of track data to be sent back to the factory. There is no in-season testing permitted, which limits the collection of on-track data to race weekends. This morning's FP1 session was partly used by the Williams team to do such data gathering, which they will send back to their factory in the hope of making a step forward before the next race in Barcelona.
The rest of the day was spent evaluating setups and learning about the behaviour of the tyres, The verdict from the Williams team is that the car is still lacking low-fuel pace, which means qualifying is likely to be difficult tomorrow, but that the long-run pace is a bit better, which for Maldonado and Bottas hopefully means they can challenge for a point or two on Sunday.
This is what the team had to say after Friday practice:
Mike Coughlan, Technical Director: This morning we completed a few more tests, mainly on the aero side, to work to solve the problems we have and gather more data for the team back at the factory. For FP2 we were back to our usual Friday programme, working on car balance, set-up and long run performance. It is really important to make sure we can look after the tyres during the race in the extreme conditions we find here. Our short run pace still isn’t where we need it to be, but our long run pace is better, so we can take some positives out of that.
Pastor Maldonado: We completed our planned programme today. We tested some development parts this morning and then we were back to working on set-up for the weekend this afternoon. Our short run pace isn’t as strong, but on higher fuel and used tyres the car felt better. This is what we were expecting today, and so we’ll continue to push hard tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas: It wasn’t a bad day for us. We gathered some valuable data in FP1 to help us to evaluate which direction to continue with the development of the FW35. In FP2 we completed some longer runs on the medium tyre, and now we will go through the data to see where we can improve as the tyre wear is big here, especially on the rears.