Pastor Maldonado claimed his maiden Formula 1 win and ended a Williams victory drought dating back to Juan Pablo Montoya’s win at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2004. The Venezuelan shocked the Formula 1 world with a classic measured drive to beat Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari in an exciting Spanish Grand Prix at the Catalunya circuit.
The Williams and Ferrari were glued together for most of the race and going into the last 20 laps it looked like Alonso may have had the advantage; but the superbly composed Maldonado was able to pull away in the closing laps and secure victory.
Alonso had another stunning get away and took the lead at the start by beating Maldonado into the first corner. From there he worked on building a gap; at one poin t he’d pulled out a three-second lead during the first stint only for Maldonado to close in towards the first pit stops. As the two leaders pulled clear of the field; it became apparent that both were very equally matched on both compounds of tyres. With some of the more common front-runners having issues making an impact the two were always in close competition. With the second stops fast approaching and the leaders coming up to traffic; Williams rolled the dice and called in Maldonado for his second stop. This tactical masterstroke combined with an exceptional out-lap by Maldonado as well as Alonso losing time behind Charles Pic’s Marussia on the Ferrari driver’s in-lap saw the Williams leapfrog the Ferrari at the second pitstops. Maldonado put in a few lightning quick laps to leave the Ferrari struggling 7 secons behind.
But Alonso wasn’t finished and started to close in on Maldonado, getting the gap down to 4.2s before the Williams had a slow final pit-stop with what appeared to be a stuck left-rear tyre. Alonso had a much quicker stop and closed in further on Maldonado. With Raikkonen staying out and taking the lead as he was running much later before his final pit-stop; it meant the leaders were absolutely nose to tail going into the closing laps as both tried to keep their tyres intact to avoid a further stop.
After Alonso and Maldonado found their ways past the Lotus driver it looked ominous for Maldonado as Alonso pressed and closed right in on the Williams diver. As they entered the final ten laps it was the Ferrari that appeared to struggle most with maintaining it‘s tyres, and Maldonado began to pull away to take a shock first win. If you’d bet on Maldonado on Friday you would have been greeted by a price in excess of 250-1.
As the race came to a close Raikkonen was on a charge with his fresh tyres allowing him to slash the leaders’ gap at a staggering rate, but he ran out of laps to catch Alonso finishing inside of a second adrift of the Spaniard having been 20 seconds back after his final stop with 18 laps to go. Romain Grosjean finished fourth in the other Lotus with a relatively quiet drive for the French driver bar a minor collision with Bruno Senna as they battled for position following Grosjean‘s first pit-stop. The Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was fifth after a battling performance from the Japanese driver filled with plenty of his usual trademark overtaking manoeuvres.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel produced a late charge to take sixth after having a mixed day at the races. The defending world champion had dropped down the field due to a drive-through penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags and losing time as he had to change his front wing at his final pit-stop. He fared much better than team-mate Webber who struggled to 11th and had similar issues to Vettel with his front wing.
Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and the McLaren pairing of Hamilton and Button fell victim to Vettel’s surge up the order, with Rosberg holding off last-place starter Lewis Hamilton for seventh as the Briton managed to make a two-stop strategy work against expectations. His team-mate Jenson Button continued to struggle for pace as he had in qualifying and finished a disappointing ninth.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg claimed tenth after resisting pressure from Mark Webber, who yet again lost places at the start and lost more time due to a front wing issue much like his team-mate Vettel would do later in the race.
Behind them were the Toro Rossos of Vergne and Ricciardo in 12th and 13th followed by the second Force India of Paul di Resta. Felipe Massa had another nightmare day for Ferrari. Another driver punished for yellow flag infringements; the Brazilian could only makes his way to 15th which will no doubt cause further calls from the Italian media for him to be replaced..
The retirments from the race included Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna, who had a coming together at Turn 1 when the fresh-tyre-shod Mercedes ran into the back of the yet-to-pit Williams. Both drivers would lay blame at the other when later interviewed by Sky’s Natalie Pinkham. Sergio Perez had a nightmare day as well having looked to have the potential for a strong performance. He picked up a puncture on the first lap as he battled with the Lotus’ for fourth spot. He would make it back to the pits on that instance before a calamitous pit-stop led to him pulling up on lap 38.
Maldonado no doubt will be looking forward to returning to his favourite track following this historic win. Frank Williams who had a 70th birthday celebration at the track this weekend will no doubt be delighted for his team after their struggles of the last few years. Williams was visibly emotional in the garage follwing the chequered flag. The teams move on to Monaco in two weeks time with there having been five different winners in five races. With such an unpredictable season so far it’s yet to be seen what twists may occur in the principality.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The Spanish Grand Prix
66 laps; 307.104km;
Classification (all times Unofficial):
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Maldonado Williams-Renault 1h39:09.145
2. Alonso Ferrari + 3.195
3. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 3.884
4. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 14.799
5. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:14.641
6. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 1:17.576
7. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:27.919
8. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 1:28.100
9. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1:25.200
10. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
11. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 1 lap
12. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
15. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
17. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
19. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
Fastest lap: Grosjean, 1:26.250
Driver Team On lap
Perez Sauber-Ferrari 38
Pic Marussia-Cosworth 36
Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 23
Senna Williams-Renault 13
Schumacher Mercedes 13
Championship standings after Round 5:
1. Vettel 61
2. Alonso 61
3. Hamilton 53
4. Raikkonen 49
5. Webber 48
6. Button 45
7. Rosberg 41
8. Grosjean 35
9. Maldonado 29
10. Perez 22
11. Kobayashi 19
12. Di Resta 15
13. Senna 14
14. Vergne 4
15. Hulkenberg 3
16. Schumacher 2
17. Massa 2
18. Ricciardo 2
1. Red Bull-Renault 109
2. McLaren-Mercedes 98
3. Lotus-Renault 84
4. Ferrari 63
5. Williams-Renault 43
6. Mercedes 43
7. Sauber-Ferrari 41
8. Force India-Mercedes 18
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6