Pastor Maldonado confident Williams 'close' to F1's top teams and can win again in 2013
Venezuelan tells Sky Sports he hopes for competitive car straight away
By James Galloway. Last Updated: February 11, 2013 3:37pm
Pastor Maldonado has told Sky Sports F1 Online that Williams go into the 2013 season with "great potential" and with the capability of challenging the top teams on a more regular basis.
The Venezuelan took the legendary Grove-based team back to the winner's circle last year with a brilliant victory in Barcelona, although his season thereafter was blighted by a lack of consistency and he scored only three more points finishes in the following 15 rounds.
But speaking in an exclusive interview for Sky Sports F1 Online with Ted Kravitz, Maldonado expressed confidence Williams and their new FW35 - which will make its debut at next week's Barcelona test - were in good shape for the challenges ahead in what he predicts will be another exciting season.
"I think we are quite close to the [other] teams and we showed that last year. We are quite close to the top teams," Maldonado told Ted.
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"It's always difficult to predict every year - you never know what the others are doing - but if we compare what we did last year and what we are doing for the next season, we have great potential and we feel confident with the package.
"And that is very important to feel confident with yourself and with the team with what you have to start the season. I know it's going to be very difficult because the competition is very tight, the driver level is very high as well, so it's going to be one more great season I hope."
Although Williams' eighth-place constructors' finish in 2012 represented just a single-place improvement on their dismal previous campaign, the former World Champions arguably made bigger strides than anyone with the performance of their car.
With the team enjoying more stability over the winter compared to last, and the sport's regulations reasonably stable, Maldonado is optimistic they are poised to make another step forward.
"We have been pushing so hard the last two years and we must concrete our potential. We won one race last year and I hope to continue like that," he declared.
"It's going to be very difficult; the changes in the car are not so big for everybody, the rules are more or less the same, but we've been working so hard and I hope to be more competitive than in the last year. [I have] more experience as well and fingers crossed to have a great season."
He added: "We had a couple of aero problems last year, which is not the case now. We have been pushing so hard on that side to develop the car and now we hope to have a very competitive car - even from the beginning of the season. And I feel ready, ready to do great races."
One significant change at the team over the winter has seen the promotion of the highly-rated Valtteri Bottas to the second race seat alongside Maldonado after Bruno Senna was dropped.
With two seasons of top-flight racing behind him, Maldonado is aware more responsibility falls on his shoulders this season.
[I'll have] more responsibility because it's going to be the first year of Valtteri in the car racing, and that will be a bit difficult at the beginning, but Valtteri has a lot of experience with the team and he knows very well how the team works and the style," he told Ted.
"He's a good guy so I hope as well to have a great season together as a team. Our mission is to put the car in the top [places] as [often as] possible for us."