Maldonado silences his critics with cool, calm and historic Spanish GP victory
13 May, 2012
May 13 (Apex) 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
|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|
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