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Maldonado: Spain pace not a one-off

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Catalunya 2011Pastor Maldonado is confident that Williams will be able to replicate its single-lap pace from Spain at other events after qualifying in the top 10 for the first time in his Formula 1 career.

The Venezuelan, who claimed a podium finish at the Circuit de Catalunya in GP2 last year, will start ninth. But despite Williams failing to score points in the first four races of the year, Maldonado believes his performance on Saturday afternoon is proof that the FW33 is finally realising its potential.

"I'm really happy because we got the maximum out of our package today," Maldonado told AUTOSPORT. "The car improved a lot, so I am pleased for the team.

"Now, everyone will be more relaxed because we've seen the potential that I have always said is there. Starting ninth is better for traffic, so I am quite optimistic for the race. I will do my best and I hope to be in the points."

Maldonado's qualifying performance came as a surprise after failing to catch the eye during Saturday morning's free practice session. But his jump in performance was down to switching from the old specification to the new rear wing, which features an improved DRS system.

"I was quick in the morning with the old rear wing, which is much slower in the straights," said Maldonado. "I was losing a lot to Rubens [Barrichello] there, but we did almost the same time so I saw that the potential was there.

"We decided to use the new rear wing in qualifying and it worked well, so we gained a good amount of time. The team gave me a good package and I got the most out of it."

Maldonado, who will start on option rubber, added that he expects the battle for the minor points positions will be determined by race strategy.

"Toro Rosso and Sauber are competitive and we are a competitive team," he said. "If we get the right strategy, it's going to be good because our race pace is good."

Team-mate Barrichello will start 19th after suffering a gearbox problem in Q1. Williams will change his gearbox before the start of the race without penalty, because each driver is allowed one 'joker' gearbox change as part of the new-for-2011 regulations requiring gearboxes to be used for five, rather than four, races.

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Maldonado hails qualifying breakthrough