May 23rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Williams have been in the second half of the field for most of the season thus far, so it came as something of a surprise when Pastor Maldonado set the sixth fastest time of this morning's FP1 session, just under eight tenths slower than Nico Rosberg's session-topping time. In the afternoon, however, the results were more familiar, with Maldonado 14th and Valtteri Bottas 18th in the other Williams.
Maldonado's impressive time in FP1 resulted from the testing of parts on his car that worked very well. He was using what appeared to be a 2012-spec stepped nose and front wing, while Bottas was running the more familiar smooth nose used so far this season. Maldonado tested some changes in FP2 that turned out to be a step back, as the results of the session suggest.
In addition to carrying out the normal FP1 and FP2 setup and testing work, Valtteri Bottas had the task of getting up to speed around the streets of Monte Carlo in an F1 car, as this is his first weekend at Monaco as a Formula One driver.
If Williams can extract the sort of performance that was visible in FP1, then this could be a better weekend for the team. If not, then it might be another weekend of disappointment. That will depend on what solutions they can find overnight and, in particular, if they can solve the tyre management issues that plagued Bottas in today's morning practice session.
This is what the team had to say after Thursday practice:
Mike Coughlan, Technical Director: "We were running different parts across the two cars this morning to try to improve our overall performance. We were happy with what we saw with Pastor’s car, but we made some changes this afternoon which didn’t work as we wanted, so we will be comparing the data from this morning to bring back the performance. Valtteri completed his planned programme today. He was learning the track at the start of FP1, but the tyres were degrading quickly so he wasn’t able to improve towards the end of the session. We need to improve our tyre management over the long runs for better consistency in the race, but we have lots of data to analyse over tonight and tomorrow."
Pastor Maldonado: "This is one of my favourite circuits on the Formula One calendar. It’s always great to drive here. The practice session today was productive and we feel we have made some progress. The set-up in the two sessions was slightly different and it felt like things were slightly better in FP1. We will analyse everything tonight and tomorrow and choose the best configuration for the weekend ahead."
Valtteri Bottas: "The track here in Monaco is very challenging, but brilliant to drive. I was learning more and more with every lap and I feel like I’m really getting up to speed in my first time driving here. We have a lot of data from today that we will look at in order to find the correct balance for the car; hopefully we can look at everything and make a step forward for Saturday’s qualifying session."