The Williams driver tells Gary Meenaghan about his aspirations for the 2012 season ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, and why he believes he and his British team are in for a better campaign.
Q&A: Pastor Maldonado on the new Formula One season
Q. You made your debut here last year. How do you feel personally ahead of the season-opening race here in Melbourne this time around?
A. I feel more relaxed. It is my second year, so I already know the track, the team, I know everything now because I have more experience, which will help throughout the season. I'm fully concentrated on the season and will do my best as always. Let's see: I'm excited to see how free practice goes [today].
And in terms of the car, how is everything looking ahead of Sunday?
All is looking good for the team. We had a good pre-season and got a lot of mileage in the car. Even though the car has changed a lot since last year, we didn't have any major problems in testing. We have a new engine, new team staff, new philosophy of work; many new changes, so I feel optimistic ahead of the new season.
How much of a step up is the new car?
It's difficult for me to say, because it is completely different. Last year's car was not bad, but it had the blown diffuser, which was a big mistake. This car looks more compact and I have more confidence in it - mechanically and aerodynamically, it is working better. The team has more experience and with our new philosophy, everything is looking positive. It is quick and consistent and feels much better than last year's car.
You have a new teammate this year too after Ruben Barrichello was replaced with Bruno Senna. How is that working out for you?
Rubens was more experienced of course, but Bruno is a good guy; a good driver and we have bee working hard during the winter test. We drive in a similar way so everything works for both of us. We feel good and we always communicate regarding technical problems in the car. This is important in order to improve during the season. Overall, there is a good atmosphere within the team.
When was the last time you spoke to Rubens?
Last year. Now I will have to watch Indy for him.
Last season was one to forget for Williams. What was the root of the problem, what has been done to rectify it?
All the team was disappointed because of the result last year, but we tried our best to improve up until the final race. Our disadvantage was the blown diffuser. This year with the Renault engine and no blown diffiuser, it's looking much better - and not just for us, but for all the teams chasing Red Bull.
So who are you targeting this year?
It is too early for us to say. The teams in the middle of the pack looked strong in pre-season, but we need to wait two or three races to see what they have in their hands, only then can we compare ourselves against others.