Pastor Maldonado was effectively in to the second qualifying session. He posted the exact same time as the driver in 16th place but because he set his best time after them, he was knocked out in the first qualifying session.
The Venezuelan described qualifying as “disappointing” and rightfully so, a word that has been linked to the Williams F1 Team and their performances since the start of the season.
However had he managed to gain that 0.001 seconds to move into 16th place, the other side of the Williams garage would have been just as downbeat. Valtteri Bottas was said driver who set the identical lap time of 1m34.425, an incredible feat despite the close margins of Formula 1 racing. The Finn narrowly made it through to the second session and only managed so on the basis that he set his time earlier in the session. He went on to set the 15th fastest time in the second session and was duly out of qualifying, something the team expected.
Talking after qualifying in a team statement, Maldonado reflected on his personal performance but looked on the positives. “I have an extra set of tyres which is positive for tomorrow, and we are working together as a team to look at what we can do in the race. Qualifying 17th is a bit disappointing, but we are realistic with our targets at the moment.”
Maldonado said the team are working hard (but who isn’t) but that a step forward in their qualifying pace is not yet on the cards. “We are trying to do our best from the track and at the factory, and we are working to have a better qualifying performance soon.”
Bottas described how one or two tenths is enough to get through to the next session, but its more like thousandths. He said “I had a bit of traffic in Q1 so I was quite lucky to get through given that one or two tenths can be the difference between progressing to Q2 or not.”
He described his lap in the second session as one of the best he has driven over the whole race weekend, but a mistake free lap from him obviously does not translate so well on the time sheets. “I put a good lap together in Q2, the best lap I’ve driven here this weekend, so I’m pleased about that. I feel I got everything out of the car today but tomorrow will be a long race in these conditions, so I will be ready to challenge right from the start.”
However Mike Coughlan, Technical Director, showed optimism in the teams race pace ahead of tomorrows Bahrain Grand Prix. He said “Following practice this morning, our long run pace was looking better against the competition so our focus this afternoon was to just get into Q2. We ran new option tyres in Q1 on both cars to give us the best chance, but unfortunately we didn’t quite manage this with Pastor, despite both drivers posting identical times. The times were extremely close, with Valtteri just 0.4 seconds off Q3, so there was a chance we could have achieved more.”
Focus inevitably turns towards race performance and whether the team can salvage something from 15th and 17th on the grid. “Now we need to look to tomorrow and concentrate on our long run performance, and getting the best strategy for the race.”
The team continue to struggle towards the back of the midfield and even Toro Rosso look to be edging clear after Daniel Ricciardo’s splendid showing in China. It’s now an uphill struggle and all hopes will be firmly pinned on the scheduled upgrades for Barcelona.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic