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Maldonado makes Williams winners again with brilliant win in Spain
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Posted By: James Allen  |  13 May 2012   |  4:15 pm GMT  |  290 comments

Pastor Maldonado gave Williams its first F1 win since 2004 with a brilliantly judged victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen.

It was Maldonado’s first win in his 24th Grand Prix start and the first for a Venezuelan. He is the fifth winner and car combination in five Grands Prix, the first time that has happened since 1983.

“We are getting better race after race,” said Maldonado. “This is a dream for Venezuela and a great moment for our country.”

Maldonado started from pole position after Lewis Hamilton was demoted to the back of the grid due to a refuelling irregularity after he set pole position. He lost the lead at the start to Alonso, got it back by undercutting the Ferrari driver at the second stop and then held on to the flag. On slightly older tyres than Alonso he saw the Spaniard close up on him, but his ability to drive Sector 3 of the lap, with the slow chicane leading to the high speed final corner onto the straight, meant that he was able to measure the gap to the Ferrari and stay out of reach in the DRS zone, in much the same way as Vettel did with Hamilton here last season. It was a brilliantly judged win.

Hamilton managed to come through the field on a two stop strategy, whereas everyone else did three stops. He finished in 8th place, ahead of team mate Jenson Button, managing his tyres through two long stints of 21 and 31 laps respectively. After a huge disappointment after qualifying, it was a very strong drive by Hamilton to limit the damage. Romain Grosjean finished fourth with Kamui Kobayashi making sure the updates to the Sauber yielded a good result in fifth place. Vettel was sixth with Rosberg seventh.

It was an entertaining race with plenty of action throughout the field. Tyre strategies were fairly standard in comparison to last year’s race here, with three stops the choice of most drivers, except Lewis Hamilton. The harder Pirelli tyre seemed to be the better race tyre on the day.

At the start Maldonado was jumped by Alonso, who steamed up the inside into turn one. Raikkonen also made a good start, moving ahead of team mate Grosjean, who fell behind the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

Alonso held a steady gap of three seconds to Maldonado until the second phase of pit stops. At this point Williams opted to pit early, and a combination of very fast in/out laps from Maldonado and Alonso being held up by the Marussia of Charles Pic allowed Maldonado to take the lead. It stayed this order for the remainder. Maldonado was able to with-stand sustained pressure from Alonso in the final 20 laps of the race and conserve his tyres sufficiently, finishing the race three seconds clear of second place.

Raikkonen followed closely home in third position as the pre-race favourite for many had a fairly quiet race, making his way in to third at the start and never being troubled from then on. The sister Lotus of Grosjean made a poor start and he found himself behind Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel on the first lap. However, Grosjean was able to re-pass those in front and set the fastest lap on the way to another high points scoring finish.

Kamui Kobayashi drove a great race to fifth position, the Sauber driver starting from tenth and making some characteristically brave moves to make his way through the field towards the end of the Grand Prix. He headed home Vettel, the double World Champion having a frustrating day consisting of traffic and a drive-through penalty for not respecting yellow flags. Although, he will be quite satisfied to increase his points lead over the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Hamilton had run as highly as fourth in the race, following his exclusion from qualifying, and an ambitious two-stop strategy paid off for the Briton as he closed ever closer to the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in the latter stages, just missing out on seventh place by 0.2 seconds. Mercedes gained only seven points from the Grand Prix after Michael Schumacher collided with Bruno Senna at Turn one, causing both to retire. Button meanwhile had another forgettable race, complaining of grip issues on both sets of tyres and finishing in ninth position.

Completing the points was Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India driver was another to absorb sustained pressure as he denied Mark Webber a points scoring finish. Webber had lost a lot of ground at the start of the race due to a front-wing change.

It was another race that gave a different picture of the state of play in F1 today, the field is so close on performance and the management of the tyres is important, we see different winners and different teams competitive at every round.

Alonso lapped the Red Bull of Mark Webber here, for example, a strange turn around given that he finished almost a minute behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain three weeks ago. Ferrari brought six major changes to its car here and they’ve certainly made some progress. But the picture is still confused as to the peacking order of the cars as it changes from track to track. It is however clear that McLaren has had the fastest car at every race and yet is not leading the championship.

“When are are first and second in qualifying and race we can say we have the best car,” said Alonso, when asked about Ferrari’s progress. “This year it’s hard to have a pace advantage or to be happy with the car because it’s so close. Consistency will be important this year. We have had probably the most difficult start to the championship and we are leading the championship with Vettel so we have to be proud. I’m a bit surprised by the result, we were hoping for some signs of improvement, so we arrived here with optimism, but the pace this weekend has been better than expected. I still don’t really know where we are. Maybe we overperformed a little bit with the car we have and some other teams underperformed.”

Raikkonen was third for most of the race and pitted later than the leading pair and was on a charge in the closing stages, another lap and he would have passed Alonso for second place. His start set him up for a good race, but the choice of the soft tyre at the first stop was probably a mistake, which cost him the second place. Raikkonen knows that he again had the car to win the race.

“We ve been doung some small things not correctly and there have been some mistakes on my side and it’s going to cost you a lot,” he said afterwards. “As long as you give yourself the chance to fight at the front I think our car can do it.”

Michael Schumacher was penalised by stewards after the race for colliding with Bruno Senna. The stewards gave him a five place penalty at the next race in Monaco.

There was drama an hour after the race as a fire broke out in the Williams pit garage, the fire brigade had to attend as thick, acrid smoke plumed out across the Catalunya paddock. Four members of staff from Williams, four from Caterham and one for Force India were treated for smoke inhalation and there was believed to be one case of burns, for which the person was taken to hospital for checks, but team sources said that no-one was badly injured.

SPANISH GRAND PRIX, Barcelona, 66 Laps

1. Maldonado Williams 1h39:09.145
2. Alonso Ferrari + 3.195
3. Raikkonen Lotus + 3.884
4. Grosjean Lotus + 14.799
5. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:14.641
6. Vettel Red Bull + 1:17.576
7. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:27.919
8. Hamilton McLaren + 1:28.100
9. Button McLaren + 1:25.200
10. Hulkenberg Force India + 1 lap
11. Webber Red Bull + 1 lap
12. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1 lap
13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1 lap
14. Di Resta Force India + 1 lap
15. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
17. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
18. Glock Marussia + 2 laps
19. De la Rosa HRT + 3 laps

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1
Richard Diamond

Hi James

I have been trying to find out (but cant) if the new wing you fit to the car must have the same settings as the one coming off? (Angles etc) If you can then if it was raining on either of the days (quali or race) you could swop the wing at one pit stop to get extra or less downforce. Also, as RB did late in the race, the car is lighter so perhaps they needed more wing to get the front to grip & therefore heat in the tyres? I am aware though, from Ted Kravitz comments during the race, that they were damaged so this appears not to have been their modus operandi!

Thanks for the great insight & look forward to the strategy report.

Richard

2

At a pit stop you can put on a different setting, yes. Because you lose time doing it so there’s no unfair advantage.

But you’d have to be careful it worked with the rest of the car.

if you look at Webber’s front wing as it comes off, on right side, main flap is literally flapping ie broken!

3
Richard Diamond

thanks James

4

Hi James,

I looked at qualy Q3 best sector times and found that both the Lotus’s were only matching Lewis in s1, two tenths slower in s2 and three tenths slower in s3.

Did they setup for straight line speed in the race, or did they perform poorly(Kimi s3 very slow)?

Thanks

5

They were top of straight line speed charts. Grosjean 323km/h, Button & Hamilton 318km/h

6
Steve Selasky

Congratulations to Williams and Pastor Maldonado. Win was long overdue and a compliment to the hard work the team has put in.

You gotta be good to win in F1.

Ok, it is early in the season. At this rate – I see the title winner victorious in only 3 to 4 races.

Kinda, gives Alonso a shot?

Steve

7

As a die-hard Williams fan, it was fantastic to see them up on the top of the podium again today. Brilliant drive, and that car is really going well.

I have to admit that I was waiting for Pastor to fail, and was even thinking that anything in the top 6 would be good enough! He drove brilliantly, though, didn’t put a foot wrong… I tought it was all over when I saw them bubmle that second pit stop! And, if I was leading my first ever Grand Prix for a team that hasn’t won in 8 years, the VERY last thing I would want to see in my mirrors is Fernando Alonso in front of his home crowd!! How’s that for pressure?!

Great job Pastor, thanks for proving me wrong 🙂

8

Hi James,

did you notice the tyres fitted by the toro rosso in front of massa during the first stint? I think I saw 3 softs and one hard, the rear left one I think.

Cheers.

9

Hi James,

Where did Lotus go wrong in terms of strategy?

Rumour is Lotus are being conservative so they can gather Constucters points.

Look forward to you’re thoughts.

10

It’ll be in the Strategy Report

11

Watched the replay of the Schumacher and senna incident again and again, senna makes too many moves. Not a huge schumacher fan but this time the penalty was bang out of order! At the worst should of been a racing incident. Reminded me of the webber and kovi mishap a while ago and there wasn’t a penalty then!!!

12

Have another look. Senna doesn’t move just before Schu hits him. It’s clear relative to the white pit lane exit line. I think they got it right

13

It maybe a bit deceptive from some angles but, as Schumacher was closing upto him, schu started to move to the right so did senna, then schu went to the left, then senna did. Yes schu did have a lot of speed and grip, and may of not expected senna to brake that early but if senna stayed on the right there may of not been a problem. As some would suggest schumacher has to bag all the blame is nonsense.

14

Congratulations Pastor and Williams. Fantastic race.

I don’t think Schumi deserves a five place grid penalty. Senna too has to take some blame. He didn’t know where he was going.

Am I the only one who is getting irritated by Eddie Jordan’s comments on BBC? I switched to BBC this week but from qualifying to race day, it was the same. If Eddie has problems with certain drivers, he should keep his opinion to himself instead of jabbering on telly.

15

What do I think?

Well- in any sports, there is cream, in boxing we have Manny, Mayweather etc..

So in short, this is turning into a complete joke.

Tires are picking the winners like lottery.

This is as fake as it can be.

I might as well go and sit at the bus stop to see overtakings.

16

I think this need to brought to attention:

Williams FW34, a car designed by Mike Coughlan, has just beaten an Adrian Newey designed RBR.

During Newey’s latter years at McLaren (post 2000) their designs have screwed up one way or the other. Since Newey’s departure, Coughlan’s designs were winners.

Seems like this is the start of another decline for RBR / Newey =)

17

“Vettel, the double World Champion having a frustrating day consisting of traffic and a drive-through penalty for not respecting yellow flags.”

Typical him, reminds me of Australia 2009 I think he was when he was driving with only 3 wheels and ignoring pit call to come in as well as flags.

Ignores flags and take other drivers as if they weren’t there. Where is the respect for the rules and other drivers from this guy man?!

18

Yes, pick on Vettel, as if no-one else was penalized.

19

Williams and Pastor gotta thank Mike Coughlan for this huge turn around and chance to win =)

20
Stone the crows

Well done Williams and Pastor Maldonado, more tan winning their first race since 2004, he held his own against one of, if not the best driver of the current era. Outstanding result. What a shame it was overshadowed by a fire, Williams always seems to have a bit of tragedy to go along with the joy.

21

James – I’d like your opinion. Now that we’ve passed the season’s “aero benchmark” circuit, and started the European leg – who do you think will be the title contenders? I have a feeling it will be between Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel. I think Raikkonen, Button and Webber will be locked in a big battle for the “best of the rest” though.

Maybe you could write up a piece on that? Would love to get your opinions in detail. Cheers.

22

Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel would be my choice too.

Hamilton and Alonso are driving beautifully at the moment, while Vettel isn’t able to get the most from himself with the car and tyre set up he has currently. If that locks in and if Ferrari make another couple of steps then it will be a fierce 3 way fight.

Hamilton’s had pole at 3 races but they’ve not made the most of it as a team. So he needs to consolidate speed into points

23

Congrats to Pastor and Williams. A win totally well deserved and I’d vote Pastor as driver of the day the way he kept Nando behind him after the undercut.

Nando was full of grin knowing Ferrari has improved and he’s second now with the same points as Vettel.

With many overtaking moves it didn’t feel like the typical procession at Catalunya.

What a season!

Oh yes, Schumi was wrong the way he just whacked Senna.

24

Hi James and other F1 fans,

Can someone help explain what Kobayashi was adjusting with his left hand down close to his knee just prior to overtaking Button?

TBP

25

Kobi + all other drivers were trying to adjust their radio channel to JA’s commentary, not an easy thing when driving at 300kph+ with lots of turns and cars around ya know 😉

26

Brake bias moving it forwards or rearwards

27

Schumi having a torrid time. His fault today but his luck in the previous races this year has been atrocious. Feel for him and keeping fingers crossed.

28

The whole thing has become a lottery. It now appears to be less about the driver and more about the set up which teams, more often than not, appear to luck into.

29

I have to say that I am not a Pastor fan. I think he is a very good driver, but I just cannot see a kind face when I look at him. You can see the arrogance in vettel and others as well, but in Pastor the effect is extra. Well my personal opinion of course.

Anyway he flirted with a good result in previous races and blew it up a few times, but as it proved, he kept learning from his mistakes and this times he handled well the pressure. I believe that Williams got their win thanks to a very aggressive strategy of an early undercut. This strategy could work only with 2 cars of the same level as ferrari and williams were at that point. But also because Pastor could make a faster third sector than Ferrari. That enabled Pastor to stay ahead of Alonso despite the DRS and a small advantage that Alonso had on top speed (If I remember correctly).

I think that it would be nice if the strategy report got an update after qualifying, letting us know what tyres each driver has left as this fact plays a pivotal effect on the races these days.

Finally I want to say that Hamilton just outperformed himself. He is different with a clearly different mental attitude and actually any drawbacks he had as a driver, are not there any more. Thumbs up to him.

30

Well Kimi gives people the impression of I-don’t-give-a-dump or dozing off impression, yet that’s not what he is.

Never judge a book by its cover.

31
Stone the crows

It would have been quite a different race had Hamilton been anywhere near Alonso or Maldonado, I think he certainly would have spoiled one or both their races. Most drivers have a game face, notice Hamilton when he gets in the car just before a race, his demeanor changes as well.

32

Today, Hamilton managed one set of tyres for 29-laps, made great overtakes AND tussled with Rosberg at the end. Considering that he’d used his tyres to achieve pole position AND had to start from complete LAST on the track, what effect does this have on the normal narrative of how wonderful and ‘intelligent’ a driver Button is and how he’s SO much better than Hamilton in ‘managing’ tyres?

Advice to Button for free: stop whining and drive!

33

31 laps

34

I, like many, don’t like this tire management circus. This is not a racing. I’m not and never was a Schumacher fan but I think he is right on this one. Tires should be important, but not this much. Today’s situation, where a top teams with top strategists and top money involved are unable to find a normal tire management pattern is just and simple ridiculous. I feel sorry for the drivers, like they do not have plenty of work without this tire issues..

Imagine skiing with the ski-degradation issue (or sometinh similar)- of course all the competitors would have the same conditions as well, but they couldn’t give 100% in races because they would have to “manage” the skis..

Or what if a football ball has the shape-changing characteristic and is prone to become oval at the end of the game.. both teams would also have the same ball, yes, and both could win or lose because of that, randomly.

With all of this we would see even more ENTERTAINING skiing and football than it is today – the common excuse of those who advocate today’s F1 tire management lottery.

Btw congrats to Maldonado and Williams team, and to my favourite driver Alonso who somehow, so far managed to lead this weird and unpredictable season.

35

Agree.

At the moment, the tire issue is like footballers wearing soccer boots that have their rubber / studs fall off at you-don’t-know-when and you expect them to score goals.

36

I just can’t wait to hear how those cursed Pirellis cost Schumacher the race.

When will his news conference be held?

37

Haha, this comment made my day! 🙂

38

Well there goes the neighborhood.

The concept of “pay drivers” actually *winning races is just… just anathema.

Maldonado simply cannot be allowed to continue this.

39

Hi James just wondering how do you think Massa will be feeling right now? Teammate Alonso battling for wins and the championship to come home second while Massa trails home in 15th! Must be ruining out of excuses, even Ferrari have their limits with drivers.

40

James,

5 teams have won the first 5 rounds. But which team is the strongest of all according to you?

I think on Sundays, Lotus is the strongest package and on Saturdays, Mclaren is the strongest package. Strange that these are the two teams who are dishing out terrible strategies to their drivers.

41

McLaren, clearly.

42

Hi James,

What do you think of Mclaren making so many human errors? How much blame lies on Withmarsh?

Is his job at risk?

43

The buck stops with him, but the race engineers take the rap for what happened on Saturday.

Pit stops are an operational issue, but they are in a transition from what they had before which wasn’t good enough to where Ferrari and Red Bull and Mercedes are. They’re not there yet!

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