Maldonado Brings Williams Name Back To Winner’s Circle In Spain

If Saturday’s promoted-pole-sitter was unlikely, Sunday’s race winner was equally so – even though it was the same man. Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado lost the race lead to Fernando Alonso in the rush to the first turn on lap one, but Alonso himself lost the lead through the second round of pit-stops and never regained it. It is Williams’ first race victory since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.

With a grin as wide as his car in the post-race press conference, Maldonado was sure that he had the race lead under control, even if it didn’t seem so from the outside until the final few laps:

“It was so close. We were looking to manage the tyre degradation so I couldn’t push that hard, just to keep the tyres alive for the end of the race and Fernando got very close,” said Maldonado. “There were some moments where he was so close especially at end of the straight, but I was managing the gap and controlling everything.

Our pace today was very strong, the car was fantastic, so was the team. We did a small mistake at the last pitstop but it did not affect our performance.”

Team principal and founder Frank Williams had another reason to celebrate as it was his 70th birthday celebration and was ecstatic with the victory:

“All the boys are immensely delighted. We needed that win. Magic isn’t the right word, but thanks to a fresh group of people and a car which is very nicely balanced, they have delivered a car which is very competitive. The car has possibilities, but our rate of development has to exceed that of the other teams.”

Alonso is now joint championship leader along with Sebastian Vettel

Fernando Alonso came home in second and his home crowd were roaring through the afternoon in support of their man, especially once he took the lead at the start of the race. Despite being close to the win, he was wary of declaring the updated Ferrari of being able to consistently challenge for victories:

We’ll see,” he said when asked if Ferrari had turned the corner. “When we are first and second in one qualifying and first and second in the championship then we will have the best car. Consistency and ability to develop is important because two tenths can be six or seven positions.”

The Iceman was stony-faced as he reflected on another win which got away

Kimi Raikkonen used the softer option tyre to his advantage as the Finn dramatically reduced the gap between himself and 2nd-placed Alonso from 25 seconds to under 2, and it was the rate of progress which disappointed him as he felt the win was possible if his race gone as well in the early phase:

I am a bit disappointed because if we had done everything right in the first part of the race, we could have put ourselves in first place,” he said. “There is no issue with the speed of the car, but it is so close between all the teams that if you have a small problem or a small issue it can cost you a lost. Our car can do it, but everything has to fall in the right place to be able to win.

“If you get the chance you should take it. Hopefully we can keep doing what we are doing now. We will see when we can win but so far it is a good step and the car feels strong everywhere.”

Hamilton produced a strong and calm drive from his last grid slot

Lewis Hamilton was upbeat following his charge from 24th on the grid to a 8th-placed finish and hopes that he has quietened those who babble on about his over-aggressive style:

“People are always saying how aggressive my driving style is so hopefully this will prove a few people wrong that I can nurse my tyres,” he said. “It is very easy just to go 100 per cent and ruin your tyres and kill you race by making silly mistakes so today was about being controlled, calm and collected.

I was the only one to do a two stopper, despite everyone always telling me how aggressive my driving style is and how much better my team-mate is on tyres than me. I think today is a good demonstration that they are perhaps wrong.”

Jenson Button was at the other end of the emotional scale as the man from Somerset was at a loss to explain how he had struggled all weekend as he finished the race in 9th:

“I was just slow,” admitted Button. “To work out why I was slow, that’s a bit trickier. I’m normally good at looking after tyres so that’s something I need to work on.

“I’m struggling with the car and but that’s not an overnight fix which is worrying. I just can’t find grip.”

Vettel did a good job to finish in the points despite his troubles

Sebastian Vettel endured a long afternoon with a drive-through penalty to add to his troubles, but still finished in a good sixth-place to hang on to his championship lead:

“It was a hard day in the office,” said the reigning world champion. “I’m not entirely happy. I think we could have been at least one position further up but we had a good recovery in the end. I didn’t think I had damage with the nose but we decided to come in and change it. That cost us some time, but it was the right thing 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.”

His team-mate Mark Webber also had wing troubles but finished once place outside of the points-paying positions in 11th. He lamented the double-edged sword aspect which the Pirelli tyres have given the 2012 races:

“It was an interesting race,” said the Australian. “I don’t know how 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.

“If you push you have to pit. It’s the new way. It’s good for the fans if they like it, but it makes it more challenging for us in different ways.”

Another disappointing day for the stubborn champion

Michael Schumacher had a race-ending incident with Bruno Senna as the Mercedes went straight into the back of Senna’s Williams. Schumacher was characteristically strong in standing up for his own corner:

“I just took a minute to watch the video and if you look at the overhead shot you can see that he moves right to defend his inside position, but in the braking phase he moves back left right in front of me,” said Schumacher.

“Then I tried to avoid to the inside again, but too late. Then it’s done because that’s in the braking phase. Very frustrating. Very much annoyed about that. We’ve had already a strange manoeuvre from him in Brazil last year and a lap before he had a get together with [Romain] Grosjean, I don’t know what exactly happened there.

“I hope they [the stewards] understand the video pictures good enough to clarify that.”

Senna also blamed the other man, but unlike his rival, suggested the the other man’s hard-line stance was nothing unusual for the controversial seven-time world champion:

“Of course he’s not going to say it’s his own fault, but at the end of the day he had much newer tyres than me, I was on very old rubber by then, so I guess our braking points were uneven for Turn 1,” said Senna. “I’d already seen Grosjean braking very late and hitting me into Turn 1, and I didn’t want Michael to do the same.

When I went to brake, he probably just tried to cross and he hit me, so what can you do?”

Schumacher was handed a five-place grid drop by the stewards following the race, which means he will start the Monaco Grand Prix five places back from where he qualifies on the grid.

Much of the pitlane was showered in thick smoke

A cloud was cast after the race as a fire in the Williams team garage raged and injured several personnel, early estimations wsaying it was only a handful, but the FIA said shortly after that a total of 31 people, which included Williams and Caterham personnel, were treated from the incident. The majority of those were for smoke inhalation, in the accident which is believed to have involved a KERS battery unit. It is not the first time the KERS system has caused injury, with a BMW mechanic receiving a minor electric shock in 2008 testing as he went to push the car, and Red Bull also experiened an issue in that time. It has been mostly accident-free since it’s introduction in 2009 but today’s is a reminder that it is dangerous and there may be changes for the system  in the future

KERS does not come without warning

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