It was a bittersweet qualifying session for Williams on Saturday in Canada, as while both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas excelled, the pair failed to secure the third place on the grid that the team had been hoping for.
Going into the final part of qualifying, Williams had looked set to lock out the second row of the grid, behind the all-dominant Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
However, in a tight final 10-minute shoot-out, where third to seventh on the grid was covered by just three tenths of a second, the two Williams men could only manage fourth and fifth, Bottas ahead of his team-mate Massa, but crucially behind Sebastian Vettel, who produced an excellent lap late on to steal third.
While Williams had been hopeful for more, fourth and fifth on the grid for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix marks the team’s best joint qualifying since Malaysia 2006, when Mark Webber and the aforementioned Rosberg qualified third and fifth.
The sense of disappointment coming from within the team after qualifying speaks volumes about the air of positivity within Williams, which at this stage last year, was still yet to score a championship point.
Bottas, an excellent third on the grid in Canada during last years wet qualifying, starts on the second row of the grid for a second consecutive year, although he hopes to avoid his slump down the field of 2013, with the Finn instead casting his eye on Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who he believes Williams can challenge for the podium during Sunday’s race.
“We’ve been competitive all weekend so I’m looking forward to the race,” he said. “I know we can challenge Red Bull here and we have great straightline speed, so we’ll see.”
For Felipe Massa, the fact that he missed out on third by just three hundredths of a second was a minor frustration, but the Brazilian, who will have taken some satisfaction from out qualifying both of the Ferraris, has, like his team-mate Bottas, set his mind on a run to the podium on Sunday.
“Maybe, if I had been a few thousandths of a second quicker, I could have been third,” he said. “I am really a bit disappointed because we have been on the pace for the whole weekend, in most of the sessions.
“We had the car to start on third and, unfortunately, missed by very, very little.
“After what we did in every session, it would have been nice to be in front of both [Red Bull] cars, but I’m confident that the car can be good and convinced we can have a good race.”
Rob Smedley, Williams Head of Performance Engineering summarised the feeling within the team, stating: “There’s just a small bitter taste in my mouth that we’re not third and fourth, but that’s just my personal competitive spirit.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic