A sensational drive from Pastor Maldonado has seen him hold off local hero Fernando Alonso to win the Spanish Grand Prix, becoming the fifth different winner in the opening five grand prix’s of this intriguing 2012 season.
The win was the perfect result for Williams, who were celebrating Sir Frank Williams‘ 70th birthday over the weekend, with Maldonado’s success being the team’s first win since Juan Pablo Montoya triumphed in Brazil in 2004.
Maldonado benefitted from Lewis Hamilton’s penalty to start the race from pole position, however despite a good getaway; the fast-starting Alonso squeezed his way past to lead into the first corner. Alonso led the way through the first phase of the race, however Maldonado stayed in touch after the first round of pitstops.
Maldonado pitted first in the second round of stops and benefitted from Alonso getting caught behind the backmarker Charles Pic to take the lead when Alonso pitted. Despite a slight problem in his final pitstop, Maldonado stayed in front heading into the final stages. Alonso got close and challenged a couple of times using the DRS, setting the race up for a grandstand finish.
However when Alonso’s tyres started to fall off with six laps to go, Maldonado was able to edge away and cross the line three seconds clear to become the first ever Venezuelan grand prix winner. The result caps off a remarkable comeback for the Williams team, who were only able to pick up five championship points in the whole of the 2011 campaign.
It wasn’t all plain-sailing for the team however, with team-mate Bruno Senna retiring from the race after an accident with Michael Schumacher on lap thirteen, the German running into the rear of Senna at the first corner.
Ferrari’s Alonso ended the race under pressure a hard-charging Kimi Raikkonen, but Alonso held him off to take second, his second podium of the season, and with it a share of the championship lead.
For Raikkonen, the race proved to be frustrating, with the Finn hoping to be challenging for the win. Left to rue an early tyre strategy gamble, Raikkonen did show his race-winning pace in the closing stages, ending up just 0.6s adrift of Alonso at the flag, but it was too little too late for him. Raikkonen was followed home by team-mate Romain Grosjean, who ran a lonely fourth throughout the race.
A surprise fifth was the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, the Japanese star producing some of his trademark overtaking moves on his way to a seasons best finish, making up for a disappointing retirement for team-mate Sergio Perez, who had to pull off after a mix-up during one of his pitstops.
Sixth after a dramatic race was championship leader Sebastian Vettel. The reigning champion ran seventh early on, but was given a drive-through penalty after failing to slow for yellow flags after the Schumacher accident, before having to make an impromptu pit-stop to change a faulty front wing. The Red Bull man overcame this to storm past Jenson Button, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the final seven laps to take a top six finish.
Rosberg ran fourth ahead of Grosjean early on, but dropped back as the race progressed, ending up seventh on a disappointing day for Mercedes. The McLaren’s of Hamilton and Button were next up, with a superb drive from Hamilton seeing him rise from 24th on the grid to take eighth, the Brit pulling off a great double move on the Torro Rosso’s en route. A low key race for Button saw him only able to gain one place from his starting position to take ninth.
Nico Hulkenberg picked up a championship point in tenth after holding off Mark Webber in the final stages. Hulkenberg’s Force India team-mate Paul Di Resta had ran in the top ten for large periods of the race, however the Brit fell back in the latter stages, with Hulkenberg benefitting to take his second points finish of the season.
Like his Red Bull team-mate Vettel, Webber was forced to pit to replace a problematic front wing during the race and this left the Australian frustrated in eleventh. Another driver having a race to forget was Felipe Massa, the Ferrari star ending up fifteenth out of the nineteen finishers after recieving a drive through penalty in similar circumstances to Vettel.
Provisional FIA Formula One World Championship Standings (After Rd. 5):
1 = Sebastian Vettel – 61 points
1= Fernando Alonso – 61 points
3. Lewis Hamilton – 53 points
4. Kimi Raikkonen – 49 points
5. Mark Webber – 48 points
6. Jenson Button – 45 points
7. Nico Rosberg – 41 points
8. Romain Grosjean – 35 points
9. Pastor Maldonado – 29 points
10. Sergio Perez – 22 points