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Pastor Maldonado pulled off a memorable maiden victory of his F1 career, the first by a Venezuelan as he took the chequered flag at the Spanish Grand Prix. The victory capped a superb weekend on the occasion of Sir Frank Williamsâ€™ 70th birthday as the team celebrated their first victory since 2004 when another South American Juan Pablo Montoya won the Brazilian GP. 2nd placed Fernando Alonso took P1 into the first corner, led the initial part of the race and challenged at the end before finally relenting as Maldonado kept a cool head and soaked up the pressure to finish ahead of the double world champion. Kimi Raikkonen had a relatively straightforward race in 3rd place, but a late charge meant he harried Alonso right to the finish line and was less than 4 seconds behind winner Maldonado.
Lotusâ€™ good from continued with Romain Grosjean finishing in 4th place ahead of an excellent Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber. Last yearâ€™s winner Vettel had a fantastic end as he moved up 3 places in the last 10 laps to finish in 6th place. Nico Rosberg finished 7th in the factory Mercedes ahead of the McLaren Mercedesâ€™ of Hamilton and Button. Nico Hulkenberg took a well deserved final point for Force India keeping the Red Bull of Mark Webber at bay.
The big disappointment of the day was Michael Schumacher who once again retired following a clash with Bruno Senna that took both men out of the race. Also sadly for Sergio Perez an early puncture spoilt his race and he eventually retired on the 26th lap.
The result meant that this exciting season saw its 5th different winner from a 5th different team in 5 races. Fernando Alonso inspite of all of Ferrariâ€™s problems nearly won the race and took the championship lead. As it turned out, his second place and Vettelâ€™s late charge meant that arguably the two best drivers in F1 currently share the lead in the championships on 61 points. Raikkonen took another podium to move up to 4th place in the standings just behind Lewis Hamilton who did a superb damage limitation job by finishing 8th having started dead last. Red Bull remain in the lead ahead of McLaren and the charging Lotus. The next race is the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time on the 26th of May.
Alonso like so often this year jumpstarted his Ferrari taking the lead past pole-sitter Maldonado over the longest run into the first corner so far this year. Raikkonen in the Lotus also made a positive start moving into third. The Mercedes team too made a top start with Rosberg & Schumacher leapfrogging into 4th & 6th places respectively. Equally impressive were Button & Massa who each made up 4-5 places in the melee at the start to move up to 7th and 11th. Hamilton who was forced to dead last following the Mclarenâ€™s fuel level fiasco yesterday expectedly moved his McLaren past the regulation back markers into 18th. The big loser in this piece was Perez who suffered a left rear puncture taking him to the back of the grid
Early first round of Pitstops
Rather surprisingly on lap 7 Mark Webber in the Red Bull chose to make an early stop and was promptly followed by teammate Vettel on the following lap. Both changed on to the harder compound. A lap later, Rosberg & Button also pit switching to the harder compound too. This certainly seemed the right choice as Vettel was able to nose in front of Button as a result. All this while Alonso stayed at the head of the field while not quite driving away from Maldonado or Raikkonen behind him. The Ferrari driver also switched to the harder compound and a lap later regained his lead when the Williams pit followed closely by Raikkonen. Lotus were the only team to buck the trend as they stayed on the softer compounds.
Michael Schumacher meanwhile was locked into a real battle with Senna who was struggling for grip. The German had a huge speed advantage and in an attempt to slipstream past the Brazilian only ran straight into the back of the Williams taking them both out of the race. Lewis Hamilton who started dead last had moved into 4th by lap 12 before pitting on lap 15. Incredibly, the Brit once again had a difficult pit stop as he ran over a tyre on the exit into 13th position.
By the 19th lap Alonso lead ahead of Maldonado & Raikkonen who was causing less of an impact in the Lotus then some expected. They were followed by a competitive Romain Grosjean who passed Nico Rosberg with surprising ease down the long straight in the battle for 4th place. Rosberg was fast becoming a moving chicane as he backed up a pack of cars â€“ Vettel, Button & Kobayashi. Â·By Lap 22, Paul Di Resta in 8th was a moving speed breaker as he backed up Vergne, Massa & Hamilton before di Resta & Vergne both pit releasing the Ferrari & McLaren to battle one on one.
Pastor Maldonado was the first of the front runners to make the second pitstop in an attempt to undercut Alonso who was held up behind a slower Marussia. Â·Jensen Button followed soon â€“ welcome relief as he was suffering from a flatspotted tyre. But Alonso it was who pit and lost the lead as Williamsâ€™ early spotting of the backmarker turned out magnificently for Maldonado. Kimi then pit as well coming out behind the Ferrari of Alonso. The other Ferrari meanwhile remained locked in a fabulous battle with Hamilton defending for all he was worth to keep the charging Brit behind him. The dogged defense was finally brought to an end as Massa was a given a drive through for speeding under the yellow flags. The same happened for Vettel too and arrested their progress. Maldonadoâ€™s progress was certainly not being arrested as he pulled out a 7 sec advantage at the halfway stage over second placed Alonso followed a fair distance behind in 3rd an 4th places by the Lotuses. Button was running in 7th place trying to challenge Rosberg in 6th only to be quite unceremoniously deposed off by Kamui Kobayashi. Meanwhile Hamiltonâ€™s attempt to run a two-stopper was coming unstuck as he was timing over a second per lap off the lead. Finally pitting on lap 37, Hamilton could only exit in 14th place in what was potentially his final pit stop.
Maldonado seemed to have things in his pocket at the halfway point pulling out a 7 second lead over Alonso. But the Ferrari began the process of reeling in the Venezuelan as he reduced the lead to less than 4 sec by lap 40. Maldonado then pit on lap 42 and had bit of a problem with his left rear to hand the provisional lead back to the Ferrari driver. However when the Ferrari pitted a couple of laps later, Alonsoâ€™s charge was not sufficient to restore his race lead. Vettel required a new nose cone as he came in on lap 43 which certainly hurt his race as he exited in 11th place.
Alonso came out of the pits about 4 sec behind Maldonado caught behind a slower Raikkonen that allowed the Spaniard to close things down. Maldonado passed Kimi eventually but Alonso passed Kimi in less than a lap and proceeded to bear down on Maldonado. Kimi then pit for what was his final tyre change on lap 49.
Alonso who was bearing down on Maldonado closed down on the Venezuelan and by lap 50 closed in to within a second. This meant that Alonso was now in the DRS zone and able to harness that advantage in addition to the fresher tyres he had on. However, Maldonado was managing the pace well keeping the charging Spaniard at bay showing a cool head under the immense pressure. Kimi Raikkonen followed behind catching the pair at about a second a lap followed by his flying teammate who was the fastest man in the race in the closing stages. Rosberg was holding station in 5th place ahead of the impressive Kobayashi. The McLarenâ€™s were next in line, Hamilton ahead of Button who in turn lead Red Bullâ€™s Vettel and Hulkenberg in the Force India.
As things turned out, Alonsoâ€™s challenge eventually faded even as Maldonado nursed his tyres impressively to keep the Ferrari well behind him. Kobayashi pulled off a superb move to get past Rosberg, while Vettel had the most impressive finish off all as he got past both McLarens and the Mercedes of Rosberg to finish 6th.
Final Top 10
Maldonado (Williams), Alonso (Ferrari), Raikkonen (Lotus), Grosjean (Lotus), Kobayashi (Sauber), Vettel (Red Bull), Rosberg (Mercedes), Hamilton (McLaren), Button (McLaren), Hulkenberg (Force India)
File Photograph Copyright: Williams F1
- 13/05/2012 23:17 - Raikkonen and Grosjean show good consistency as Lotus has exceptional Spanish Grand Prix
- 13/05/2012 22:58 - Mercedes Wrap: Rosberg takes 7th place in Spain, Schumacher crashes out
- 13/05/2012 20:43 - McLaren Mercedes Wrap: Hamilton, Button score vital points in thrilling Spanish Grand Prix