Last lap shunt denies Maldonado points in his best race to date

Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams Renault FW34 goes off track. Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 18 March 2012.

Pastor Maldonado looked set for sixth place before his last lap shunt in the Williams FW34

Mar.18 (Reuters) Pastor Maldonado’s rush of blood to the head at the end of the Australian Grand Prix denied Williams more points on Sunday than the Formula One team had scored in all of last season.

The Venezuelan had shown competitive pace through 57 of the 58 laps and looked set to finish sixth when he lost control of his car on the final lap and crashed spectacularly while pressing the fifth-placed Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

Williams chairman Adam Parr, whose team racked up just five points last year in their worst ever season, said he understood why the Venezuelan had been trying to pass Alonso rather than banking the eight points.

“He wasn’t side by side with Fernando but he’s a racer,” Parr told Sky TV.

“If there’s a car in front of him, he doesn’t appreciate that very much. So I am afraid that’s just in the blood.

“I think you can imagine that a driver who doesn’t finish a race always feels very frustrated. But I gave him a cuddle and I said ‘You drove a great race and we’ll have another go in seven days time’.”

Parr’s disappointment was tempered by the fact that after several years in the doldrums, Sunday’s season-opener proved that the nine-times contructors’ champions had a car with the pace to challenge at the front of the grid.

“At the end of the day we’ve had a great weekend,” he said. “We’ve done a lot in the last few months to truly try and turn the team around and I think we’ve had a lot of evidence this weekend that we’re making really good progress.

“The car was considerably better than anything I have seen in recent years actually, so I think we have to take the positives from today.”

Maldonado has always shown good pace at street circuits like Albert Park, notably getting up to sixth place at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix only to end up empty-handed and out after clashing with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

The 27-year-old, in his second year in Formula One and enjoying considerable financial support from state oil company PDVSA, also stressed that the pace of the car augured well for the season.

“Our pace was quick and consistent and we were looking competitive right up until the moment I had on the last lap, which is very important,” Maldonado said.

“Unfortunately, I just lost the back of the car while pushing Alonso and I had nowhere to go.”