Villeneuve crashed out at the first corner, while the German Frentzen spun off with a brake problem. Villeneuve said: "It was both annoying and frustrating to throw away all the good work in Australia, but I think we showed in qualifying that we have a really great car. The speed is there for all to see and all we have to do in Brazil is stay out of trouble and demonstrate it in the race."
Since the first-corner fracas in Melbourne - triggered by Eddie Irvine, who forced his Ferrari down the inside of Villeneuve and Johnny Herbert's Sauber, taking all three off the track - Villeneuve and Frentzen have been testing at the Le Castellet track in France.
Much of their work focused on curing the braking problem which bedevilled them in Australia and, according to the team, they have succeeded. Villeneuve, who spun off last year in Brazil in torrential rain, expects to go the distance and win.
But he is likely to face a strong challenge from Frentzen, who is hungry to prove he has the ability to race and finish at the front. He said: "Things didn't work out in Australia but I am confident about Brazil. We were disappointed, but we have worked hard to rectify the problems and I think we are ready."
The biggest challenge to the Williams may come from Benetton, who have also worked hard to improve their all-round performance after a disappointing opening race. Major aerodynamic revisions are expected around the air- intake area of the car, an improvement which could propel Gerhard Berger and his team-mate Jean Alesi into good positions.
Ferrari, led by Michael Schumacher and Irvine, have continued to struggle to extract the best from their cars and could be edged out by McLaren, buoyant after David Coulthard gave them their first victory in 50 races since the triumph of the late Ayrton Senna at Adelaide in 1993.
Damon Hill, however, is not expected to make an impact. He failed to start in Australia and has tested ferociously to improve the reliability of his Arrows car. He admitted: "We are hoping for better things but that is all you can say."
At least Hill, and Arrows, will be taking part. The new Lola team, which failed to qualify with either car in Australia, is out of the championship series after withdrawing due to financial and technical problems. That reduces the field for the 71-lap race, expected to be run in hot and humid conditions, to 22.Reuse content