Williams endured a weekend of contrasting fortunes in Austin, with rookie Valtteri Bottas scoring his first Formula 1 points while team-mate Pastor Maldonado finished well off the pace after an outburst directed at the team post-qualifying.
Bottas looked quick throughout all segments of qualifying, as the Finn took advantage of an improve car which was no longer running its Coanda-effect exhausts, to line up ninth on the grid.
From there, he drove a very strong race, which included a brilliant pass on Esteban Gutierrez, to finish eighth and score his first points. He now has four times the number of points as team-mate Maldonado, 28, who is in his third season in the sport and won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. It also gives Williams a buffer of five points over Caterham and Marussia in the constructors’ championship ahead of the final race of the season in Brazil on Sunday.
Bottas, 24, said: “It’s a very big relief. It’s better late to get the points than never, so I’m very happy. I think that the whole weekend we’ve done the right directions with the car set-up and the changes we made in Abu Dhabi that help us a bit more here.
“Come Sunday we still performed really well, we had a good strategy, good pit stop, and good start so I’m very happy for us as a team. I think it’s very important to get at least some points.”
On a weekend where Bottas rewarded the team for their faith in re-signing him for next season alongside Felipe Massa, the relationship between Maldonado and the Grove-based outfit became from fractious after the Venezuelan launched an outburst at his team after a poor qualifying.
Maldonado was knocked out in Q1, when Bottas went fastest, and then hinted that the team had tampered with the tyre pressures ahead of the session. Williams rejected the claims.
After getting knocked out, when asked by BBC Radio 5 live whether the team were prioritising work on Bottas car over him, Maldonado said: “I don’t know and I don’t care to be honest. I am focusing on next season. It’s over.”
But after the weekend, Maldonado – who has yet to announce his plans for next year – moved to clarify his comments. He said: “Sometimes you get too stressed and you get stuck in the moment. But maybe there is something behind that after three years, and sometimes you can explode. I think I accumulated energy and exploded. It’s not that I’m crazy and I start to say many things like that.
“For sure it was wrong from my side, because I respected them for three years and they respected me for three years, but I was so stressed during the weekend and after the announcement that I am leaving the team. Maybe some people changed in approach and I was taking that personally.
“I think they were not all the team, so I cannot react against all of my people because of just one person. At the end of the day it’s a great relationship and I want to keep them as friends. I have some big friends here, maybe the only friends I have in Formula 1, and we’ve had maybe the best time of my career together, but maybe also the worst part of my career together.”