Maldonado silences his critics with cool, calm and historic Spanish GP victory

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen give Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado a lift

May 13 (GP247) Pastor Maldonado made history as he crossed the line to win the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, becoming the first Venezuelan Formula One winner, beating local hero Fernando Alonso in a cool, calm and collected display – making it five different winners out of five races so far this season.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 and Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34 battle at the start of the race. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado go wheel to wheel into Turn 1 at the start of the Spanish GP

It also returns the Williams team to the top step of the podium, where they have not been since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix with Juan Pablo Montoya – 132 races ago.

With pole winner Lewis Hamilton relegated to the back of the grid after a qualifying penalty, Maldonado was promoted to top spot on the grid. Although he managed a good getaway, it was Alonso who took the early lead and set the pace with Maldonado following comfortably, the pair pretty much controlling proceedings at the front.

The key moment for Maldonado came when he dived into the pits for his second pitstop on lap 25, emerged and reeled off a flurry of ultra-fast laps. Alonso stayed out until a couple of laps later, dived in for his stop on lap 27 and emerged behind the Williams. Game-set-match.

From then on Maldonado was in command, impressively oblivous to the pressure from behind, from the acknowledged top gun of this generation, on the top gun’s home track. Nothing phased Maldonado, not even when Alonso got within striking distance – make that DRS zone distance – but the Williams tyres were in better shape towards the end and Maldonado held on to his lead as Alonso’s lap times plummeted alarmingly.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari and Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams celebrates in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Fernando Alonso congratulates race winner Pastor Maldonado

Behind the top two, Raikkonen toiled away – closing in on Alonso initially at a second per lap, then at two seconds per lap, but it was a case of too little too late as the Iceman had to settle for second.

Maldonado, who was surprising calm despite sporting the biggest grin in Spain, said of his first win, “I think it’s a wonderful day, not just for me but the team. We’ve been pushing so hard to improve since last year and here we are. Yesterday after a great qualifying and today we did it again. It was a tough race because of the strategy and after a couple of laps we were struggling with the rear tyres. The car was so competitive after the first lap. Fernando did a better start then me but I was following the pace. It was my first pole and first win and you can imagine what I am feeling.”

The Venezuelan is the 104th driver to have won a grand prix, out of 735 drivers who have started F1 races.

Alonso’s second place puts him joint first (with Sebastian Vettel)  in the points standings. He reflected, “It was a fantastic start and it was close into Turn One, but we had the better side and we had the momentum to lead for the first part. But Williams anticipated the first stop better and as the race went on we lost grip and maybe some aero and in the end I was in the battle with Kimi for third. But we are back in front in the championship with plenty of possibilities.”

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Kimi Raikkonen leads Pastor Maldonado before the Finn's final pitstop

Raikkonen commented, “I’m a bit disappointed. I expect to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. At end of the race, we were good but it was too late. We were too slow at the start which is why we couldn’t fight for the win. We showed we still have the speed. Maybe we took the wrong choice in the first stop. I was not so disappointed during the race, but in the end, when you can catch them up almost 20 seconds, you have a disappointed feeling. If we had a few more laps, we could have fought for a victory. But that’s racing and it’s good points for the team.”

Romain Grosjean survived a few altercations along the way, but failed to match the pace of his more experienced team mate, and crossed the line in a lonely fourth place.

Kamui Kobayashi finished fifth, matching his best ever F1 finish, giving Sauber valuable points and beating some of the ‘grandee’ teams in the process.

For Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes it was a day  which will have them scratching their heads in dismay. They were always in the the thick of the action but simply lacked the pace to contest for a win and they leave Spain with crumbs.

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 battle. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Jenson Button versus Sebastian Vettel

World champion Sebastian Vettel, was sixth after an eventful race, which saw him tussle with just about everyone outside the top four which was the highest he managed to run during the entire race and that was for one lap during the early pitstops. He also served a drive through for ignoring yellow flags, nevertheless he scored enough points to keep him top of the points table along with Alonso.

Vettel commented afterwards, “It was a hard day in the office. I’m not entirely happy. I think we could have been at least one position further up. We had a good recover y in the end. It was good fun, but when it’s up and down, up and down, it’s quite difficult. I didn’t think I had damage with the nose. It felt like there was something stuck which ruins the aerodynamics. We decided to come in and change the nose. That cost us some time, but it was right to do. We found out that the front end of the wing was actually broken. I don’t know why, I didn’t hit anybody.”

Also involved in just about every skirmish was Nico Rosberg who salvaged seventh place for Mercedes, in a frustrating afternoon for the Silver Arrows which saw Michael Schumacher slam into Bruno Senna’s Williams under braking into Turn 1 – both headed back to the paddock for an early shower.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Lewis Hamilton leads Jenson Button

Rosberg said, “It was not so enjoyable when I was out there and had no rubber on the tyres. Fifth would have been OK, seventh is not so good. It’s been strange all weekend. It’s fantastic for Williams but for us, it’s strange. Tyre management is an issue for us. I’m enjoying this season but scratching my head at the same time. It’s very strange.”

McLaren were reeling from the qualifying blunder which saw an under-fueled Lewis Hamilton stripped of pole position and banished to the rear of the grid and from then on it was back foot stuff for the Woking squad.

Hamilton gave a gutsy performance to finish eighth and would probably have been a contender for top spot on the podium had his team been at the top of their game.

“I am proud of myself and the team. We did a good job to come all the way from the back, we battled through and conserving the tyres was tough. Someone told me that I was only the person on a two stop, so I think that considering everyone keeps telling me that I am hard on tyres and how much smoother my team-mate is, I think that should show them. I just nursed them all the way through. I just cleared my mind and got on with it from the back of the grid. It was like being back in the karting days. Sometimes I would turn up with my dad and that is something that we would have to do,” reflected Hamilton.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Nico Hulkenberg salvaged the final point

Teammate Jenson Button was simply not a contender this weekend. The Australian GP winner unable to find a suitable balance for his McLaren MP4-27 and ended up in ninth after an unimpressive performance from the 2009 world champion.

“I was just slow. To work out why I was slow, that’s a bit trickier. Normally good at looking after tyres. That’s something I need to work on. I can’t do that at the moment. I’m struggling with the car. It’s not an overnight fix which is worrying. The first two races were good. Bahrain was tricky and here is also tricky. I just can’t find grip and I can’t use it. I don’t think I could have done a two-stop (like team-mate Lewis Hamilton),” admitted Button.

Although the team made a big noise about reshuffling their pitstop crew, they fumbled again and each time a McLaren pitted for tyres one inevitably expects the worst.

Nico Hulkenberg salvaged the final point for Force India, beating his team mate Paul Di Resta for the first time this season.

Just out of the points, in 11th, was Mark Webber who had to change a front wing and fight his way through the field with little reward.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 leads at the start of the race. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

First lap action

“It was an interesting race. I don’t know where I got damage on my front wing but I had to pit for a new nose. When you’re out of position round here you have to look after your tyres and when you catch people, your tyres get killed. I was out of position whatever happened with the nose. If you push you have to pit. It’s a new way, it’s good for the fans if they like it, but it makes it more challenging for us in different ways,” said Webber.

It was another ‘nail in the coffin’ race for Felipe Massa who finished 15th but was again thoroughly shown up by his Ferrari teammate.

The Schumacher-Senna incident was a case of one driver having plenty grip in his tyres (Schumacher) and the other nursing his tyres (Senna) – when Senna arrived at his braking zone going into Turn 1, it was about 20 metres before Schumacher even considered braking. The Williams moved to the left, then jinked to the right, but by then it was way to late for the Mercedes driver to avoid it. At the end of the day it is likely to go down as a mistake by Schumacher, despite the circumstances.

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03 collides with Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday 13 May 2012.

Race over for Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna

Senna’s version: “Look it’s racing and incidents happen. At the end of the day, I was not expecting him to hit me, I thought he was going to dive for the inside. He probably misjudged me a little bit. He came with good speed on the straight and I had to brake. When I saw he was moving I thought he would dive on the inside so I moved a little bit to the left and then he just hit me.”

Schumacher’s version: “I just took a minute to watch the video and on the overhead you can see he moves right to defend his position in the braking phase but then moves back left into me. I am very annoyed about that. He made a strange manoeuvre in Brazil and I hope that the authorities understand those pictures. He was a backmarker and not a real contender for the points. We may not have been race winners, but we would have got good points.”

Last word to Sir Frank Williams, gifted a great birthday present: “All the boys are delighted, and I’m quietly delighted, boy did we need that win as you can well imagine. Most of the season has been thanks to a fresh group of people but it’s been very well balanced. The aero guys have done their stuff, more than their stuff. The Renault engine is very competitive. The car has got possibilities and our rate of development has to exceed that of the other teams. We’ll see.”

Spanish Grand Prix Result – Sunday, 13 May 2012

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time Grid Pts
1 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 66 Winner 1 25
2 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 66 +3.1 secs 2 18
3 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 66 +3.8 secs 4 15
4 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 66 +14.7 secs 3 12
5 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 66 +64.6 secs 9 10
6 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 66 +67.5 secs 7 8
7 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 66 +77.9 secs 6 6
8 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 66 +78.1 secs 24 4
9 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 66 +85.2 secs 10 2
10 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 65 +1 Lap 13 1
11 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 65 +1 Lap 11
12 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 65 +1 Lap 14
13 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 65 +1 Lap 15
14 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 65 +1 Lap 12
15 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 65 +1 Lap 16
16 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 65 +1 Lap 19
17 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 65 +1 Lap 18
18 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 64 +2 Laps 21
19 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 63 +3 Laps 22
Ret 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 37 +29 Laps 5
Ret 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 35 +31 Laps 20
Ret 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 22 +44 Laps 23
Ret 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 12 Accident 17
Ret 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 12 Accident 8
  • Mildseven

    Really good drive! Excellent pit stop! And Lewis did a great job too!

  • kaka007

    a thrilling grand prix…….
    maldonado was awesome….so was alonso,kimi,kobayashi and hulkenberg(who held up faster webber for almost 10 laps or so)
    vettel was also great after that drive through…..
    schumi and massa should retire for good………there days are over

    a great day for williams

  • Obviously

    Class move by Kimi and ALO to hold up Pastor on the podium.

    Just note, all the naysayers about Pastor pay ride, rich boy, backing, blah blah, etc.. Piss off.
    True he is a pro on that circuit specific. But so are the other GP2 drivers.

    Fernando and Kimi, as expected, pro drives from premium pilots… Fernando is truly on another level… But doesn’t take away from the cool, calm, collected drive from Maldonado… Under heavy pressure, 10 laps to go… Good job holmez.

    I was wishing @Stewy was gonna be a genius…and HAM run out of juice, woulda been classic…… Damnit, maybe next time…..

  • Lol.

    Loved this race. Absolutely loved it.

    Great first win for Maldonado, Alonso kept him honest right til the end, and Kimi woulda had second in the bag with one more lap.

    Grosjean an unsung hero of the day, great drive to 4th place. Kobayashi still the best overtaker there… Vettel had a good drive despite my hatred of him, and lewis drove like a hero.

    Very dissappointed in Button and Webber. No idea what the hell they were doing.

    As Obviously said, Hulkenburg another unsung hero.

    Schumacher was a complete idiot. He had a car length of room on the outside, and instead of pulling right over to the inside he just stayed behind senna. Drove well up til that point but was incredibly stupid there… and still had the nerve to blame senna. Such arrogance.

    Massa did as to be expected.

    It was also nice to see Senna’s comments about Maldonado at the end. Normally drivers say something that implies “he did well but i’d do better”. None of that brovado from Senna.

    All in all, awesome. Williams back in the winners circle, Championship tighter than ever and great racing too. Lots of non-drs moves taking place.

    Like them or hate them, Pirelli have made this season exciting!

  • ?

    This race and Monza 2008 has a lot in common

    3rd place was occupied by a dark horse
    A Sauber finished 5th
    Spain and Italy both border the Meditteranian
    The winners were Midfielders taking a first win in their 2nd year.
    2nd place was occupied by one of the Big 2 teams(Ferrari, McLaren)
    while the 2nd driver of the other team in the “big 2″ finished 9th

  • ?

    Oh, yes, the winning car had a dark blue livery, does that count?

  • me262

    @?

    the sun came up and set all around the world too

  • usman fasih

    HAHAHA SCHUMACHER FAILS AGAIN

    but it was pirelli’s fault again LOL

  • Alonsofan

    good to see the glory days of Wiliams on top.Alonso was fast but let down by poor strategy,kimi is mega as always…but there is still evidence that Mclaren in the Lewis’s hands is fastest of all..

  • kaka007

    wished there were 68 laps for this race…..just to see a kimi win…..
    but maldonado calmly removed that paydriver tag..
    smelling a shake up in the driver line-up in williams and ferrari pretty soon..
    again mclaren screwed one of the pit stops for lewis, if u guys didn’t notice

  • Speedo

    Mildseven, excellent stop? Are you crazy. Did you see the first pit stop Lewis made. They bungled again leaving tools in front of the rear tyre and Lewis going over it and landing with a slight bump. I thought game over. Criticised by the commentators on Starsports. The second pit stop had the commentators applauding as it was clean. But they could have been a bit faster like the Red Bull and the Ferrari crew.

    All in all an excellent drive by Lewis managing his tyres on a 2 stop strategy. I think he would win in Monaco.

  • pitwall

    How long before Lewis is seen at the Williams motorhome?

  • pitwall

    @speedo I think Mildseven was talking about the Williams pitstops

  • fools

    Alonso bravo…doing what he does best. Loved how he launched off the grid and how he took turn one off the line!

    The masterful Alonso yet again under lacking down force in the rear. But managed enough. Now tied leading the WDC!

    Superb driving Maldonado!

    However I am really liking Grojean. The Frenchman can drive.

  • Hawk

    drive of the day
    Lewis Hamilton… by far..