Maldonado takes historic victory at Spanish Grand Prix

 

Pastor Maldonado today ended Williams' long wait for a Formula One victory by taking a historic chequered flag in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Within a month of founder Sir Frank Williams' 70th birthday, this was the team's first win since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, 132 races ago.

Starting the weekend as a 300-1 outsider, Maldonado became the first Venezuelan to savour the winner's champagne, finishing just 3.1 seconds ahead of home favourite Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.

And for only the second time in F1 - the other occasion in 1983 - there have been five different winners and fiver different constructors winning the first five grands prix.

Behind the leading duo Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus was a close-run third, running out of laps come the conclusion.

Behind them reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was sixth despite four trips to the pits, including a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags following a smash involving Bruno Senna in the second Williams and Mercedes' Michael Schumacher.

The stewards are to investigate that incident later, with the seven-times champion seemingly the man at fault for running into the back of the Brazilian.

As for Lewis Hamilton, demoted to the back of the grid yesterday with his qualifying times excluded after stopping on track due to running with low fuel, he managed to make a two-stop strategy work by finishing eighth in his McLaren, one place ahead of team-mate Jenson Button.

Vettel now leads the championship on countback from Alonso, with the duo tied on points, with Hamilton falling eight points down.

A very happy Maldonado, who only took one point for Williams throughout a wretched debut campaign, said: "It is a wonderful day, not only for me, but the team.

"Yesterday we had a great qualifying, and today it was a tough race, especially with the strategy because of the tyres.

"Fernando made a better start, but I followed the pace, the car was strong.

"This is my first podium, my first victory, so you can imagine what I feel."

With his car sporting a new upgrade package this weekend, Alonso is happy to be in the hunt for the title again.

"We led the race at the first part, but Williams anticipated the situation at the first pit stops," said Alonso.

"We were lucky at the end with Kimi closing in, but this second place is fantastic, a step forward in terms of the championships."

Raikkonen, though, was unhappy with third as he said: "I'm a bit disappointed because I thought we would be stronger.

"We were not quick enough at the start and maybe we made the wrong choice of tyres at the first pit stop, so we have to look at this.

"But it's racing and I've scored some good points for the team."

From second on the grid Alonso made a superb start, despite the best intentions of Maldonado to put the Spaniard off his stride on the long run down to the first corner.

Behind them, Sauber's Sergio Perez was the unfortunate loser as from fifth at the start the Mexican incurred a puncture through the first corners, forcing him off the circuit, and eventually into the pits at the end of lap one for new rubber.

When Perez returned to the track he almost collided with Hamilton, who was forced to take evasive action having made up five places in the opening corners.

Suggestions this would be Lotus' day soon evaporated as Alonso and Maldonado pulled clear of Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, who were second and third three weeks ago in Bahrain.

Instead, it became a battle between Alonso and Maldonado, and a cat and mouse game surrounding pit stops.

Initially Alonso held sway through the first round after around 10 laps, although he was unable to shake Maldonado off his tail, which proved crucial through the second phase.

Maldonado was first in after 25 laps, with Alonso waiting until three laps later, resulting in him being comfortably passed by the former as he emerged back on to the track.

With a four-second lead Maldonado made his third stop after 41 laps, and again Alonso waited three laps, and again he filed in behind his rival.

The question at that stage was whether either would make a fourth stop, which would have brought Raikkonen back into the equation.

As the closing stages unfolded Raikkonen managed to reel in the front two following his third and final stop after 49 laps.

But hopes either man in front would take on fresh rubber for a fourth time never materialised, and instead he had to settle for third, 3.8secs down on Maldonado and 0.7secs adrift of Alonso.

The Finn is now fourth in the standings, 12 points behind Vettel and Alonso, and four behind Hamilton.

The 27-year-old performed admirably in the wake of his qualifying disappointment yesterday when he thought he had grabbed McLaren's 150th pole.

PA

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