Pastor Maldonado, long considered a Formula One ride-buyer despite having won a GP2 title, proved his worth by beating two-time world champion Fernando Alonso at his home Grand Prix
Maldonado, the first Venezuelan to win a Grand Prix, brought Williams its first F1 win since 2004. The 27-year-old F1 rookie qualified second, and was promoted to the pole when McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton ran out of fuel in qualifying and was relegated to last place. He lost the lead to Fernando Alonso going into the first turn, but stayed with the Spanish Ferrari driver. Late in the race Maldonado got by when Alonso pitted, and the Williams driver held up under pressure from Alonso for the final 18 laps.
“I think it’s a wonderful day, not just for me but for all the team. We have been pushing so hard since last year to try to improve race by race and here we are,” Maldonado told the post-race press conference on formula1.com.
“It was a tough race because the strategy; it was tough especially because of the rear tires—after a couple of laps we were struggling with [them]. Fernando did a better start than me but I was just following the pace and it was so great. It’s my first podium and my first victory and you can imagine what I feel.”
Maldonado’s wins makes it five races won by five different winners in five different chassis so far in 2012. After three seasons which saw domination by Braun and Red Bull, Formula One has become unpredictable.
Alonso nearly caught Maldonado when both were on fresh tires, but the Williams chassis is much more tire-friendly than the Ferrari (thought he Ferrari is much improved.) Alonso’s back end could be seen sliding wildly in the final laps as the gap stretched from one second to three. The Ferrari was fast down the straight but slow in the second and third sectors; apparently it lacks rear downforce.
Kimi Raikkonen, driving for Lotus, nearly caught the leaders on the final lap. The former world champion gained 20 seconds in the final fifteen laps. Clearly the Lotus is a better car then either the Williams or the Ferrari; had the race been five laps longer Raikkonen might well have won.
René Grosjean brought the second Renault home in fourth, followed by Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber. Sebastian Vettel finished sixth, despite earning a drive-through penalty and needing an extra stop to replace a damaged nosecone. His teammate Mark Webber finished out of the points in 11th.
The two McLarens finished eighth and ninth. Lewis Hamilton can be praised for finishing in the points after starting in last place. He qualified on the pole but was relegated to last place when he ran out of fuel on track; the rules require that every driver have a liter left for testing purposes. Yet again a McLaren error hurt one of its drivers.
During the race Hamilton’s crew again had trouble in the pits, but didn’t cost their driver any positions; the McLaren didn’t have the pace during the race anyway.
Button qualified tenth after not getting into Q3, getting caught out when the temperature dropped in the final two minutes of the session which cut half-a-second off lap times (the same happened to Webber.) Button held on to finish ninth; a good drive wasted by a car which for whatever reason wasn’t working properly
Fernando Alonso’s second-place finish ties him for drivers’ championship lead with Sebastian Vettel with 61 points, well ahead of Lewis Hamilton with 53. Red Bull still leads the constructors’ championship with 109 points ahead of McLaren with 98 and Lotus with 84.