x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Formula One: Pastor Maldonado optimistic Williams have left car problems behind

After not completing the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, Williams driver Pastor Maldonado said his team have found a solution with their car, writes Gary Meenaghan.

Williams driver Pastor Maldonado failed to finish the Australian Grand Prix last weekend. Paul Gilham / Getty Images
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado failed to finish the Australian Grand Prix last weekend. Paul Gilham / Getty Images

SEPANG // The trophy that Pastor Maldonado won at last year's Spanish Grand Prix sits in a cabinet in his home in Venezuela. He sees it once a year and uses the memory of it to drive him toward more success.

"I prefer to not see it, because, that way, it asks me for more," he said Thursday.

Following a positive pre-season with Williams, sustained success looked like it could be possible this season; his trophy could be joined by similarly shining prizes.

Instead, Maldonado and his marque were given a rude awakening in Melbourne as the team underwhelmed throughout the weekend and the 28 year old, after qualifying 17th, spun off and labelled the 2013 car "undriveable".

On such evidence, success appears a long way off, yet Maldonado is certain the issues can be sorted and the car has the potential to push Williams back on to the podium. He takes his belief largely from the fact the car is an evolution of last year's race-winning machine.

"The heart of the car is last year's car, so we just need to work harder and see what we can do," he said, ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"Last week, I had all the problems you can have in a car. What happened was the worst that can happen, but now – with the analysis we have done – it's clear where the problems are and, theoretically, we have the solution. But we need to test very well."

Maldonado's victory in Barcelona last season was blighted by a series of avoidable crashes, but having married in the off-season, he said he has grown up since last year.

Now he is ready to make the most of any chance that comes his way, and while he dismissively laughed off the prospect of fighting for a podium this weekend – "it's impossible" – it remains the ambition going forward.

"I have more experience for sure," he said. "I showed that I've been ready to win when the opportunity was there. I learnt from the mistakes and am more experienced, more relaxed now."

The rest of the field has improved as well, though, and breaking into the front of the pack will be a tough ask.

"The difference between the teams is smaller," he said. "We need to try to be there with the top teams, maybe not to win all the races, but I think it's possible to do well, get on the podium. The potential is there. I'm 100 per cent sure."

Teammate Valtteri Bottas said Williams will learn a lot from Friay's free practice at Sepang. The rookie out-qualified Maldonado, but it remained a difficult debut in Australia.

With the team fixing some of the issues, he is hoping to be placed further up the grid once more come Sunday.

"The performance is there and we just need to get it out, really," Bottas said, adding that the hotter temperatures in Malaysia will help the team get heat into the all-important tyres.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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