Williams facing uphill struggle in Melbourne

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After a disappointing performance during practice for the Australian Grand Prix, Williams drivers Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas have admitted that they have a lot of work to do ahead of the opening race of the 2013 season.

“We have a lot of work to do before tomorrow,” said Maldonado. “We have another practice session to focus on the set-up needed for qualifying and we’ll be analyzing all today’s data this evening.”

Neither driver excelled in practice, and FP2 saw Valtteri Bottas finish just three-tenths ahead of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, which has caused many to question Williams’ pace for the new season. However, like Maldonado, Bottas was hopeful of improving his fortunes during the final practice session on Saturday.

“We will analyse all the data tonight and keep working on the car in FP3 to get everything ready for qualifying.

“It felt good to be back on track today. It’s a new circuit for me so it took a few laps in the first practice to get to know it a little better. The track improved a lot going into the second session with much more grip, so I felt like the car could still improve further.”

Technical director Mike Coughlan revealed that the team has reverted back to the aerodynamic package used to launch the car, suggesting that Williams have struggled with the new upgrades.

“We’ll be running our FW35 launch aero package for the remainder of the weekend as it has proven better around the Albert Park circuit and in the conditions we have here.”

Williams had a good season in 2012, winning a race for the first time in over seven years at the Spanish Grand Prix. Much of their good form was rooted in the opening race where Maldonado and ex-teammate Bruno Senna both impressed, and the team will hope to repeat this pace on Sunday despite their practice woes.

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.