The Australian Grand Prix reaped little reward for AT&T Williams, with Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado retiring from the race with transmission problems. But when the cars were running cleanly, both drivers were able to demonstrate the potential of the FW33.
Pastor drove with speed and maturity on his Formula One debut, while Rubens scythed through the field after a troubled opening lap had dropped him back to 20th. He was up to ninth by lap 22 and in front of cars that went on to finish in the top six, but an accident with the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg ended both drivers' race.
Despite scoring no points in the season-opener, AT&T Williams heads to the next race in Malaysia with confidence. The FW33 proved around Albert Park that it can be a quick car; and with resolved transmission issues, the target will be to finish in the points at Sepang.
Sam Michael, Technical Director:
Q: Neither FW33 finished the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. What caused the retirements of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado?
SM: We had transmission failures on both the cars this weekend. We had a failure on Pastor’s car early on in the race with Rubens retiring on lap 48. We are still currently investigating both problems.
Q: Rubens had a gearbox oil leak during final practice on Saturday morning. Did this contribute to his retirement in the race?
SM: No, it was unrelated. The issue we had on Saturday was with the rear gearbox oil seal that caused a leak.
Q: Talk us through Pastor Maldonado's Formula One debut. Were you impressed with his performance?
SM: Pastor did well in qualifying despite the limited mileage after he had a spin in P3. Pastor kept his head down but had to abort his final run due to a flat spot on his tyre. His race was over much too quickly however, due to the transmission issue, so he still hasn’t been able to show his full potential.
Q: How do you sum up the competitiveness of the FW33 around Albert Park?
SM: The competitiveness of the FW33 was encouraging given the limited running and set-up time we had in Melbourne. There is more to come from the car and I hope in the next few races we can show what the FW33 is capable of.
Q: Was the degradation of the Pirelli tyres as you expected?
SM: The tyre degradation was still high in Melbourne but it was lower than most of the teams expected. Sauber's Sergio Perez did well to manage his tyres during the second stint to complete the race with only one pitstop.
Q: What are your thoughts on the new-for-2011 moveable rear wing (DRS)? Did it have the desired effect in Melbourne?
SM: I think the DRS did make a good contribution when it was working but it is still too early to judge. From what we have seen I think it will have the desired effect in assisting overtaking manoeuvres once it is a bit more finely tuned.
Q: The Malaysian Grand Prix comes next. What are your hopes for that race?
SM: Heading to Sepang we will once again be hoping to get into the top ten in qualifying and end the weekend with some points for both cars.