Slow but steady progress for Williams

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After a terrible start to the 2013 season, Williams appear to have made some progress with their first major upgrade package during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Although the results were by no means spectacular, both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas appear to be tentatively optimistic about the progress made during the three week break.

“We’ve been working on different set-ups today and testing a number of new parts on each car,” explained 2012 race winner Maldonado. “We feel a little more positive, but we will analyse everything we tested today and hope to show the improvements in qualifying tomorrow.”

Bottas, one of five drivers to be racing at the Circuit de Catalunya for the first time in F1, was hampered like many by the wet weather in FP1, but he is pleased with how the car felt once the track had dried out for second practice.

“It was an interesting day for us,” Bottas said. “Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite right in the first session, but this was the same for everyone. We were trying different parts on the car today, particularly in the second session, so we have a lot of data to analyse tonight to work out the best set-up for tomorrow. The initial feeling is that we are starting to take steps forward.”

Williams’ start to the season has been unspectacular, failing to score in the opening four races, but if the upgrades do greatly improve the performance of the FW35, this pointless streak could come to an end in Spain this weekend.

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.