x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Williams find balance in qualifying as Maldonado will start in third

Venezuelan hopes to be among the points again six months since his only win of the championship.

William's Pastor Maldonado last points came in Japan when he finished eigth. His first career win was in Spain six months ago. Marwan Naamani / AFP
William's Pastor Maldonado last points came in Japan when he finished eigth. His first career win was in Spain six months ago. Marwan Naamani / AFP

ABU DHABI // Belief and relief were the two emotions emanating from Pastor Maldonado last night after the Williams driver, with only one points finish since his first career win in Spain six months ago, found the qualifying pace he has lacked of late.

The Venezuelan will start this afternoon's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from third on the grid after pulling out an impressive qualifying lap that was only five-10ths of a second slower than Lewis Hamilton, who took pole.

Maldonado, 27, was to have been joined on the second row by Sebastian Vettel, until Red Bull Racing's world champion was moved to the back of the grid. He will now start alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

"Points would be very important for us, so I will push at the maximum and then we'll see. I think we have very strong pace and are very competitive," said Maldonado, who started the Singapore Grand Prix in second before being forced to retire with a mechanical failure.

"We have shown all through the weekend that we are competitive and very consistent in different conditions."

Mark Gillan, the chief operations engineer, revealed the team had been working to find stability in the car ahead of qualifying and was delighted they appear to have succeeded.

"Pastor has been very strong all weekend showing good race pace on Friday," Gillan said.

"We worked hard on the qualifying balance throughout the weekend, which ultimately paid off."

Maldonado, whose best finish since his triumph in Barcelona came in the form of an eighth-place in Japan, added: "The car was right there [on the pace], so I'm very happy for the team and very happy for myself as well.

"We're back to being strong again."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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