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Williams optimistic it can stay at front in Spanish Grand Prix as Pastor Maldonado gets pole

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Catalunya 2012Williams believes it has the pace to genuinely fight at the front of the Spanish Grand Prix - even though it concedes victory will be hard.

Pastor Maldonado will start from pole position at the Circuit de Catalunya following Lewis Hamilton's exclusion from qualifying.

And with the Venezuelan having been strong throughout the Spanish weekend, chief operations engineer Mark Gillan believes that the team has the potential to keep up its good form in the race.

"A win would be tough, but based on our race pace in practice, we're definitely in the race," explained Gillan, who is confident that the team's progress in qualifying pace has not come at the expense of its race pace.

"We've improved the car just generally. We're not just going for qualifying performance. If you get the better qualifying, you'll get the better race pace as well. To be honest, our Friday running was good. We used to be pretty confident of the Sunday pace."

Gillan thinks the progress that Williams has made with its FW34 is simply the result of small improvements to the car but because the field is so tightly packed it has made a noticeable difference.

"We brought a number of bits here, and I'd say a majority found their way onto the car," he said. "Things are so tight, that small differences can make large differences in terms of where you finish in qualifying."

He also believed that the step forward in Q3 form was helped by it being able to save a new set of options for Q3.

"Tyre usage is really the important thing," he said. "For us, saving the new set of options for Q3 made a big difference. We haven't had the pace in Q1 to be able to do that [so far this year], or the confidence to do that, and a lot of teams obviously run two tyres. Friday was a good step forward for us."

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