May 13, 2012
Maldonado earns first F1 win
By SPORTS NETWORK
BARCELONA, SPAIN - Pastor Maldonado claimed his first win in his early Formula One career by taking Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
Maldonado and Williams became the fifth different driver and constructor to win in as many F1 grand prix this season. He also gave Williams its first victory since Juan Pablo Montoya took the checkered flag for the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. It was the last year Montoya drove for the team before heading to McLaren.
"I think it's a wonderful day, not just for me but the team," said Maldonado, who joined Mercedes' Nico Rosberg as first-time race winners in F1 this year. "We've been pushing so hard to improve since last year, and here we are."
Maldonado, in his second year in F1, became the first Venezuelan driver in the sport to win a grand prix.
In a hotly contested race on the Circuit de Catalunya, Maldonado held off Ferrari driver and Spaniard Fernando Alonso. Maldonado qualified second on Saturday but inherited the pole after McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was stripped of the position due to a fuel violation in qualifying.
To the delight of his home crowd, Alonso overtook Maldonado for the lead heading into turn one on the opening lap. Maldonado drifted over at the start, allowing Alonso to run side-by-side with him.
Maldonado and Alonso exchanged the lead several times throughout the 66-lap race. Maldonado capitalized on pit strategy, as he came in earlier than Alonso on all three of his stops.
On lap 42, Maldonado had a lengthy stop but managed to reclaim the lead five laps later when he passed Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen for the position in turn one.
"It was a tough race because of the strategy, and after a couple of laps, we were struggling with the rear tires," Maldonado noted. "The car was so competitive after the first lap. Fernando did a better start then me, but I was following the pace."
Alonso trailed Maldonado by less than one second in the late stage of the race, but Alonso wound up finishing 3.2 seconds behind Maldonado.
"Williams anticipated the first stop better, and as the race went on, we lost grip and maybe some aero," Alonso said.
Raikkonen, a two-time Spanish GP winner, finished a close third.
"I'm a bit disappointed," he said. "I expect to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. At end of the race, we were good, but it was too late. We were too slow at the start, which is why we couldn't fight for the win."
Raikkonen's teammate, Romain Grosjean, finished fourth, followed by Kamui Kobayashi from Sauber. Two-time defending F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull was sixth. Vettel, who won last year's Spanish GP, had to serve a drive-through penalty for failing to slow down during a mid-race caution.
Rosberg took the seventh position.
Since Hamilton was excluded from qualifying, he had to start from the rear of the 24-car field, but Hamilton benefited from a two pit-stop strategy to finish eighth, one spot ahead of his teammate, Jenson Button.
"We did a good job to come all the way from the back," Hamilton said. "We battled through and conserving the tires was tough."
Nico Hulkenberg from Force India finished 10th.
Vettel and Alonso share the lead in the championship standings with 61 points each. Hamilton is eight points behind the two.
The top-seven drivers are separated by just 20 points, heading into the May 27 Monaco Grand Prix.