Pastor Maldonado lines up third in Abu Dhabi but reckons he can go faster in race
Venezuelan reckons Williams have superior race pace
By Mike Wise at Yas Marina Circuit. Last Updated: 04/11/12 9:56am
Pastor Maldonado is confident that he can hold station and secure a podium finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a strong performance in qualifying.
Maldonado set the fourth fastest time on Saturday but will line up one place higher as a result of the grid penalty handed to Sebastian Vettel late in the evening.
The last time Maldonado featured so prominently during qualifying was at the Singapore Grand Prix night race six weeks ago, where he started second.
The Williams driver clearly has an affinity with street tracks and also appears a dab hand at judging the right time to set about his flying lap at twilight and night races where, unlike more usual qualifying sessions, track temperatures get cooler.
"I think, especially this kind of track - low grip - we can attack the biggest teams. I had a good feeling that the car is going to be quite good here and it's been like that all through the weekend," Maldonado said.
"Yesterday, we were very consistent and today we put everything together.
"This is a tricky, tricky race. Even during the qualy: we start with sunny temperatures and by the end everything has changed.
"You need to try to predict what's going to happen, try to be there in the right moment.
"I've been quite good all through the year in qualy. I think we did a great job today."
According to Maldonado, however, the race might suit their FW34 car even better.
"The race pace is even better than the qualy was. I hope to be there and competitive. Maybe (polesitter) Lewis (Hamilton) is faster than anyone else but we can be quite competitive - I hope so," the driver said.
Williams Chief Operations Engineer Mark Gillan agreed, adding: "I think the Friday pace, the race pace, was very good. But our qualifying pace wasn't as strong as the long-run pace, so we worked a lot on it.
"I think with P4, we extracted pretty much everything out of the car."
Maldonado's strong showing in qualifying came after Williams, whose season was been to say the least inconsistent, went through a slump.
They struggled particularly in Korea as a result of a balance problem Gillan says has now been fixed.
He also reckoned that, on Saturday at least, Maldonado outperformed his car.
"Going back to Korea we were not very strong. We had a balance issue on the car and we worked hard on it in Delhi," Gillan said.
"We got it sorted and now I think we're reaping the benefits from it, in that we've had Friday and Saturday to work on the balance again.
"I think, to be honest, the car is firmly in the P5, P6 sort of position. So Pastor's fourth was obviously very good."