Williams duo Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia have admitted that the team's new challenger, the FW27, is lacking in pace and that plenty of progress is needed before the start of the season if the team is going to have any chance of challenging for race victories
Although the car has looked fairly solid in pre-season testing, it has not set ultra spectacular lap times like rivals Renault, McLaren and BAR - and now Pizzonia and Heidfeld confess that the team is heading into the season on the backfoot.
Speaking during a break in testing this week, where the team ended Thurday's running behind David Coulthard's Red Bull Racing car, both drivers admitted that they were not optimistic about the team's chances early in the season.
"I think there's a lot of work to be done on the car and on the engine," test driver Pizzonia told autosport.com. "Some teams are looking quite strong at the moment, especially Renault, and we are a bit far from them."
Heidfeld, who has been relishing his chance with a top team, admitted that his early optimism about the car may have been slightly misplaced - although he is hopeful that new parts due to be introduced in time for the Australian Grand Prix could transform the pace of the car.
"We are quite good in terms of reliability, we are not bad in terms of speed, but at the moment we are not the quickest ones," said Heidfeld. "I hope that some new parts, which will come for Melbourne will bring positive results, but only when we'll get there we'll know exactly where we stand."
When asked whether he believed the lack of speed was a mechanical or aerodynamic issue, Heidfeld said: "Of course if we're not the quickest it's because there's a lack of grip, but it's difficult to say where is it coming from. But at the moment we are concentrating on trying to get more downforce from the car."
Pizzonia himself, who is seriously considering turning his back on Williams and heading to Champ Cars, has suggested that the problem with the car may well be caused by issues back at the team's Grove factory.
"There were some problems at the factory, which I don't think I should mention in detail, but I'm sure if they fix those problems at the factory they'll be able to fix the problems with the car," he said.
Although he would not expand on specifically what the issues are, one suggestion is that there could be some issues with the team's new wind-tunnel - either in its calibration or in the team fully understanding how to transform its data into track performance.
Despite the drivers' views about the car, however, Heidfeld believes that Williams can still expect strong results from the start of the season - because the FW27 has proved so reliable in testing, especially compared to McLaren and Renault.
"It's true that both teams look very quick, especially Renault, but I think they both have some problems with reliability, and that could work in our favour in the beginning of the season," he said.
"We also have some small reliability issues, but nothing we couldn't solve, so I think we have to make the best use of our reliability at the beginning of the season and work to find more speed in the meantime."
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