AT&T Williams registered its first finishes of the year in the Chinese Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello came home 13th, while his rookie team-mate Pastor Maldonado saw the chequered flag for the first time in his F1 career in 18th place. With the reliability of the FW33 in place, the team can now fast-track a series of performance upgrades in its efforts to move up the order.
Both cars finished the Chinese Grand Prix. Given the team’s recent reliability problems, could you draw any satisfaction from 13th (Barrichello) and 18th (Maldonado) positions? "Although it was good to see the reliability improvements get both the FW33s to the finish, we don’t get any satisfaction out of not scoring any points. However, the gap between 15th and 10th isn’t that big so that is our next target. As well as the technical regrouping that we’re currently undertaking, our focus is to get some points on the board."
Pirelli brought their hard and soft-compound tyres to China. Was the tyre degradation comparable to Malaysia last weekend? If not, why not? "The degradation was similar to what we saw in Malaysia, but interestingly it didn’t improve too much in the race as it did in Melbourne and Malaysia. That is why those on a two-stop strategy became exposed to those that had made three stops during the closing stages of the race. This is due to the high energy input nature of the Shanghai circuit putting a heavy load on the tyres."
A red flag during the second segment of qualifying compromised Rubens' session in particular. Had he had an uninterrupted run, where do you think he could have qualified? "Rubens could have qualified higher up if there hadn’t been any qualifying interruptions. After the problems that Webber and Petrov had, I think he should have been able to qualify in the top eight on the new option tyres that he had remaining."
You tested several new parts on Rubens’ car during practice. What were they and what conclusions could be drawn? "We had a number of new parts in China. The most visible one was the new exhaust system on Rubens’ car during practice. We saw some quite positive signs during the traction phase, but unfortunately we had some reliability issues with parts of the floor burning and subsequently causing degradation of aero performance. We’re redesigning some parts and intend to reintroduce an upgraded version of this exhaust system at the Barcelona GP."
Mark Webber’s charge through the field from 18th to third highlighted the importance of having fresh sets of option rubber available in the race. Do you expect teams to alter their approaches to qualifying as a result? "We had already noticed that in Melbourne as after the problem on Rubens’ car during qualifying, we were left with an extra set of new tyres for the race. It is difficult to find the right balance between qualifying and the race, and it is a task that is interlinked with what decisions other teams make. It really depends on who you are competing against as there are different optimums for each team."
We now have a three-week break before the next race in Turkey. Can we expect to see more upgrades on the FW33 at Istanbul Park? "We are introducing a modified floor, new front wing, new rear wing and new brake ducts to both cars for Istanbul. We expect this to give us a few tenths to help our drivers get into the top ten."