Williams has not been mentioned among the likely frontrunners so far, but Rubens Barrichello is feeling confident – especially after his teammate Nico Hulkenberg topped the Friday test times on the team's first relatively low fuel run of the winter. After Saturday's testing session, Barrichello sat down with the press to discuss the year ahead.
Q. You should reach 300 grand prix starts this year, is that an aim?
Rubens Barrichello: The thing that I can sell to the team is quite easily experience, but the most important thing is that I have the motivation. The experience is coming because I have it, but I feel like I'm 18 years old with no thoughts of stopping and still being very, very competitive. I'm reaching my peak moment right now in terms of speed, so I'm so motivated for this year. I'm having a good time.
Q. What do you think of Fernando Alonso's testing form?
RB: I think he's very strong. I think he's done a lot of miles. He's definitely one of the best around here. When you first start at Ferrari it's a dream with what they can offer you, not just the car, but outside it's just a different life – an easy and nice life. So with that I think he's living a good moment and of course I tip him and [Felipe] Massa as some of the fighters for the World Championship.
Hopefully I'm in there too, but it's still too early [to say]. I have no prediction for who's going to win in Bahrain because I just don't have any idea. You see Ferrari is going fast, but everyone is very, very closely bunched up, so I think it's going to be nice. We do have a competitive car, but where are we? We don't know.
Q. You had the best engine with Mercedes at Brawn last year. How do you compare the Cosworth to it?
RB: Cosworth is working very well. You can see we've put lots of miles on engines this winter. I need to tell them congratulations for that they have achieved so far, because we've really done lots of exercises with the engine. They cured one of the problems that we had at the very first test in Valencia, so we were happy with the power in Jerez. Obviously it's a new engine so driveability and some small issues need to be recovered, and that's why we're testing. But I'm quite optimistic that Williams-Cosworth is bonding well and we can have a good championship.
Q. Will Williams be competitive enough to fight for the championship?
RB: I don't know. Hopefully we can. I don't think we can say much because it's very vague on how much fuel people are using. I think Nico's time on Friday was the very first time we tried low fuel in the car, and we surprised a few people, so all of a sudden Williams is being talked about in the paddock.
But like I said, this winter it was very, very easy to become the hero of the winter test. If I took fuel out at every test I would've been first at every test, but would that have taught me what I now know from the car? I don't think so.
So it's just down to Bahrain on Saturday and we'll talk again. It's really, really hard to understand where people are. You get surprised with times, some of the time in a good way and a bad way – people do a good time, then all of a sudden they do such a bad time. So it's difficult, and that's what's fascinating about the winter tests.
Q. Will you do a low-fuel run on Sunday?
RB: I hope so, I hope the weather is good. I don't know if we're going to lower the fuel right down, but I need to have a feeling for the car on low fuel as probably the next time will be qualifying on Saturday in Bahrain. Probably everyone needs to [run light].
Q. Despite the weather at Jerez, have you had the testing program you hoped for and are you in the sort of shape you wanted?
RB: Yes. Obviously I wish I'd had one more dry day in Jerez, I just had two wet days. But the main topic of the first three tests, at Valencia, Jerez and Jerez, was to absolutely nail reliability – and we have done that very, very, very well.
We knew that we would have a different package for here, the bits are not fully in the car just yet, so there will be bits coming for Bahrain, just like normal. But I'm quite happy on the progress we have made physically inside the car, and with driving. The team prepared very well for me to feel at home with the buttons and steering wheel movement, and the things that I have to do. It feels like I've been here for the last five years. When they say something, I look to the steering wheel and I'm familiar with it, so I'm happy.
Q. Sometimes you've started a season knowing you have a car to win races, sometimes knowing that you have a bad car? How does Williams stand this year?
RB: We have improved – we can only say for ourselves – but we have improved a good second from Valencia. We feel competitive, but I think Williams-Cosworth can be one of the teams to surprise people this year. But like I said it's really, really difficult and I'm just keeping myself very clear, my feet on the ground, and just working as hard as I can. But I feel the car is on a competitive level.
Q. How do you like the new format of very low fuel in qualifying and very heavy fuel to start the races?
RB: I like the contrast, I like the fact of having so much difference. You're going to finish qualifying and know that the next day you'll bring the car to the grid and that's it, but I like it. It's like half-dry, half-wet – you have to adapt. I'm quite good at that, and I feel it's something I will enjoy.
Q. Some other teams seem to be having more reliability problems, do you think that will give Williams more chances?
RB: At least for the first few races. It's something that we need to obviously keep an eye on, because we tested on days that were like 60 degrees, and we'll go to Bahrain and it will be maybe 90 degrees, so it's different. Everyone will suffer with that. But having said that I'm quite confident on reliability.
Q. You started last year knowing you had a winning car – what do you know about Williams this year?
RB: We have to hope for the better. Even though we tested very well last year, I went there with an open mind. I'm going to the first race, just like last year.