Mar.21 (GMM) From the depths of 2011, Williams is now 'not far' from the pace of F1's strongest teams.
That is the claim of Pastor Maldonado, who in the newly Renault-powered and Mike Coughlan-designed FW34 qualified eighth and was pushing Fernando Alonso for fifth in the race when he crashed out of Sunday's season opener in Melbourne on the last lap.
It indicated a major turnaround for the formerly championship-winning team that collapsed to a dismal ninth place in last year's points standings.
Venezuelan Maldonado hopes last Sunday was indeed the start of a Williams resurgence.
He said this weekend in Malaysia "should be interesting".
"We were very close to (Red Bull's) Mark Webber in the first and second stints," said Maldonado.
I think we are faster than Ferrari, Sauber and Force India
"I think we are faster than Ferrari, Sauber and Force India," he added.
Maldonado's last-lap crash in Australia cost Williams a full ten points -- double the team's tally of the entire 2011 season.
"We need points in the future," he acknowledged, "but we are also now more relaxed now."