Remember Pastor Maldonado’s finest hour? How he took unlikely win in Spain
Pastor Maldonado
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Feb 2016   |  12:23 pm GMT  |  77 comments

Pastor Maldonado’s F1 career has come to an end after 95 Grands Prix and the man synonymous with accidents and incidents has now left the stage, no doubt to the relief of some of his fellow drivers.

But as much as the collisions and the penalties Maldonado will be remembered for his stunning victory in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, where he started from pole position and battled with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso for the victory. He never stood on the F1 podium again.

To add to the drama the Williams F1 team garage caught fire after the race as the team was celebrating, destroying one of the race cars and much equipment. It was one of those scenarios you just couldn’t make up.

So how did he win that race?

The Williams was working well that weekend on the tricky Pirelli tyres. This was the extraordinary period when the first seven races of the season were won by seven different drivers. It was about getting it all right.

Williams found a good set up and Maldonado was on form. But there were stronger rivals with a better chance of winning. The Williams was a competitive car that weekend, as it was later in the season at other events including Singapore, where Maldonado qualified on the front row.

But the Venezuelan’s weakness was a chronic lack of consistency; he just made no mistakes in Barcelona that year and neither did the team.

It was a perfect example of how a race can be won or lost on the finest of margins and on a good or bad strategy decision. But also it shows that if you can execute a perfect weekend with no mistakes, you can win an unlikely victory against stronger opponents.

Williams was then being led operationally by Mark Gillan, with Mark Barnett as chief strategist. Ironically he is now at McLaren with Alonso. Gillan, Barnett and the team were trialling a new system on the pit wall that measured how much life the tyres had left in a stint and this gave the confidence to be aggressive, where Ferrari went conservative. Williams had read the conditions through the weekend and planned their strategy perfectly.

In Friday practice, with track temperatures above 40 degrees, the soft tyre was working well as a race tyre. However expectation before the weekend was that the temperatures would be lower on race day than the rest of the weekend.

This led some teams to plan to save three new sets of hard tyres for the race, as these have a lower working temperature range than the softs and would therefore come into their own in those conditions. This turned out to be the correct thing to do; the track was at 44 degrees on Saturday and this dropped to 32 degrees on Sunday and the hard was indeed the faster tyre.

Williams and Maldonado did this, Ferrari had only two new sets for Alonso.

Maldonado lost the start to Alonso, but managed to beat the Spaniard and won the race for Williams due to planning and to a good strategy call half the way through the race. Williams was confident they had a faster car than the Ferrari and expected Lotus to be the main challenge. However while Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen had the car to win, he was a fraction off due to race strategy and reading the conditions and ended up third.

One of the key factors that decided the outcome of the race, before the race had even begun and it eliminated the favourite for the race win; McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. The Briton had a 0.6second per lap car advantage that weekend. But a mistake by the McLaren team when he did his final run in qualifying ruined his chances.

Due to a refuelling error, Hamilton’s car did not have enough fuel in it to complete the lap and be legal at the end. He was moved to the back of the grid by stewards. Maldonado had done a strong lap for second place, which became pole position with Hamilton’s demotion.

In the race, the decisive moment was the early second stop of Maldonado. Alonso had enough pace in the opening two stints of the race that Maldonado wasn’t able to get close enough to attack.

Importantly, however, the Williams had better tyre life at the end of the stints and at the end of the second stint, Maldonado closed up on Alonso, from over three seconds to half of that. Barnett made the call to pit the Venezuelan two laps before Alonso for the second stop while Ferrari allowed their driver to stay out and run into slower traffic.

Having saved the sets of new hard tyres, Barnett calculated that he would then have the tyre life to do 42 laps with one more stop to make without losing pace at the end.

It was brilliantly executed; his in-lap was 0.4s faster than Alonso’s, the stop was only 0.2secs slower than Ferrari’s, but crucially on new hard tyres his out-lap was 2.6 seconds faster and the first flying lap was also a second faster. With Alonso losing time behind the Marussia of Charles Pic, Maldonado had done enough to take the lead from the Ferrari when it stopped two laps later than the Williams.

Alonso’s tyres suffered in the wake of the Williams and the job was done for Maldonado.

He had won many races in GP2, so he knew what to do when in that position. It was just one of those days when the team got everything perfect in its strategy and execution, their rivals made errors and the driver was able to deliver what was asked of him and found some consistency.

What are you favourite or least favourite Maldonado memories? Leave them in the Comments section below

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Rob in Victoria BC

I’m surprised that no one (l don’t think) else has mentioned the enormous fire in the William’s garage immediately following the race.


It’s mentioned in the post…

Rob in Victoria BC

Ha! So it is! Sorry James Allen. And, if l may say, l own a copy of, ‘Schumacher, The Edge of Greatness’, written by you and have lost count of the number of times l have read it. Thank you, an excellent book.


no mention of the fact that pdvsa is gone. the only major oil company without an appalling reputation.


I felt he was a good driver that just couldn’t keep his head. Wasn’t it the weekend after his win where he deliberately barged into someone in practice at Monaco?


Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it

I don’t comment here much anymore, but Pastor’s exit feels like one of those small items that remind usthe wheel has turned a full circle. Petrov/Pastor/Perez. This may be a bit harsh, but the circumstances of his exit remind me too much of how he got into F1 ahead of others more deserving


He’s good enough to be in F1, as he’s crazy fast. He just hasn’t improved, year-on-year, so his departure is warranted.

I like when drivers get a chance, do okay, then leave. F1 needs more Maldonado stories rather than Massa/Raikkonen/et al stories. I’m tiring of drivers hanging around too long.


Do you mean Alonso must finally go? Perhaps so. 2015 was quite damaging for him.


Love KR and FA’s faces in that photo. They are like, ‘Seriously, is this actually happening?’


Suspect #1: “Can you believe this?” 😐

Suspect #2: “Relax, just get it over with and then later we’ll set his car on fire”

Suspect #1: 😀


Accusing his team, Williams, of sabotaging their own car to compromise him must the bottom of a not under sized barrel of less than peachy perfect moments.


Great read James, nice to know more about how Williams pulled off the win. Looking back it’s common to remember Alonso stuck behind at a track where it is difficult to overtake, that was the image on our screens. But Maldonado and Williams had good pace and crucially as you analysed in a digestible way, better strategy to overturn Alonso’s great start.


Pastor was never a great driver and was in teams to bring his money he did win and there have been a lot of good drivers over the years who could not do that good on him.


Nice piece, thanks James!

It suggests it was a win on merit with both team and driver performing very well and reaping just reward.

Another interesting aside to add to this event’s story is that if Alonso had been able to get through and all other results remained the same, he would have won the world championship…


Amused by the amount of people here saying they’re going to miss him! In a strange way, I agree in that I do think F1 needs a Maldonado, whether or not it’s not the man himself. That Spain win has to be the highlight, and it was one of the most unlikely debut wins we’ve seen in F1 in recent years. There were other good races too; don’t forget he did spend 3 of his 5 seasons in F1 in very uncompetitive machinery so it didn’t always show up.

Alas the downsides were pretty bad; Australia 2012, Valencia 2012, Belgium 2011 qualifying, China 2015 in the pitlane, Hungary 2015 and Bahrain 2014. It is easier to recall the bad days! But it’s worth recalling the good ones too and, as a wider point, I enjoyed this article. It struck me that this blog has been going for several seasons now, and has witnessed some really interesting races over that time. Could be worth making this retrospective of a GP an occasional series, even if the expression “classic races” is overused in F1.


In a way, Alonso lost the 2012 title that day.


Pastor won that race for all of the reasons mentioned above, but also, and much more importantly, because unlike quite a few drivers on the grid (the Hulkenbergs, Bottas, even Button) he feels that he deserves to win – that it’s only natural that Alonso should finish behind him. A proud man. I will miss him, despite his many mistakes. And oh, how epic he was around Monaco, always a sign of natural speed.


Good read. Forgot about the great Williams strategic calls, more than just an undercut with the hard tyres, timing, wear confidence and ultimately a faster car. Multiple poor strategic decisions again by Ferrari after doing the hard work jumping the polesitter at the start.

Unbelieveble now to think that not so long ago McLaren then Williams and Lotus were considered the better cars for a race, better than the Ferrari and of course Mercedes who?!?


Am not going to go into his driving as that is a can of worms! But what a nice guy, usually interesting to listen to and a warm personality. Best of luck to him for the future.


Legendary win. Nothing lucky in there at all as James superbly explains in his tribute. That win was all down to Maldo putting it all together on the day. Always struck me as a driver who was as fast as anyone in a fast car. Where he seemed to have trouble was in slower cars where he tried to make it go faster than was possible. Well done James for that tribute remembering a driver for his finest moment.


Really enjoyed the article, but nearly lost my lunch looking at that Ferrari. Ugly doesn’t cover it.


Oh and if I recall correctly did he not set a record for the number of consecutive GP2 wins in a season?


I think so. And someone who, later, became his F1 teammate also equaled those consecutive GP2 wins


I actualy gonna miss him. He wasn’t as bad as most fans made out although he had a tendency to screw up on the strangest times. I thought his car control at austria, where he caught a gigantic tankslapper was to be seen to believed and some of his drives in the latter part of last season where just good perfomances. The sad part is that in terms of speed he is a worthy f1 driver but he only will be rememberd as the crash dummy for williams and lotus.

Heres hoping we will see him again because he always brought entertainment(good or bad) and the sport needs a machiavellian villain.

Good luck pastor.


I share the same feelings and I thank you for this article James, it was a nice way to say goodbye to Pastor.


I’ve always been suspicious of Maldonado’s win in Barcelona. Williams have had precisely one GP victory in the last 10 years (Montoya in Brazil in 2004 being the next most recent win I think?), it happens to fall on Sir Frank’s 70th birthday, and the car is mysteriously destroyed by fire after the race!


It’s a great one for conspiracy theorists but there’s no way it could be anything other than a happy coincidence.

Do we know that it was Maldo’s race car that got destroyed anyway? That would have been in scrutineering surely? Or if it was that car then it would have been after the car was returned having passed scrutineering. If the car was illegal then it must have been done with the compliance of the FIA so why the need to destroy it along with other valuable equipment in the garage? Why not take it back to the factory and dismantle it there?


Andrew, the real reason for the win is right there in the article!


Maybe Maldonado can get back in F1 if he finds sponsorship with an auto bumper company or parts supplier. They could make a fortune with that type of advertising!


“Crash safely! Tested by PM”


Remember when he took a swipe at Hamilton after qualifying in Spa?


THIS is the thing I’ll always remember him for. I’ve never seen a driver deliberately and obviously sideswipe someone like that.


Thanks for the article, James.

His qualifying in Hockenheim (2012) is one of the finest I have seen from him, still remember – beating his team-mate by 2 seconds in Q2 and qualifying behind Schumacher. 🙂


many people slag him off and say he doesn’t deserve to be in f1 but I found him entertaining for his good moments and bad. whoever wins the race deserve their victory and that was a great day for pastor and Williams (until the fire)


I hope that he’s always able to look back on that day with the same joy that he plainly experienced at the time!

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