Like Nico Rosberg earlier this season, Pastor Maldonado took his first Formula One win in style converting his pole to the top step on the podium. It was the first win for the Williams team since 2004 and marked a remarkable return to the wining list for the team.
2011 had been a tough year for the team leading to many changes including the departure of Aussie Sam Michael. 2012 had shown improvement with the new Renault engine but not many would have predicted the team was on the verge of a race win.
Maldonado had qualified second for the race but moved up to the pole when Lewis Hamilton was relegated to the back of the grid for failing to return to the pits after Qualifying.
He did not however have things all his own way with Fernando Alonso grabbing the early lead in another strong start for Ferrari. It seemed like Alonso was then well placed to go on to claim another victory at his home race.
Williams however showed they also on their game on the pit wall when they called Madonado in earlier than the Ferrairi. With new tyres and extra pace Maldonado was able to get back ahead of Alonso after the pit stop cycle.
From there he built a lead and appeared to have the pace to cover Alonso. That picture changed when a left rear wheel nut caused problems at his last stop. It allowed Alonso to close and set up a exciting finish.
Ferrari seemed convinced the Williams would not be able to keep its tyres and with fresher rubber, albeit just 3 laps newer, they expected Alonso to pounce.
That was not to be as Maldonado drove his car within the limits to preserve the tyres, whilst keeping Alonso at bay.
Behind them Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the podium in another good result for Lotus Renault, though post race he was dissappointed to not have been cloer to the leaders.
With Frank Williams celebrating his 70th birthday it is fair to say the win was popular up and down pitlane. It is the teams 114th win and their 64th with a Renault engine.
The win was however soured by a post race fire in the teams pit in which the FIA reported 31 people required treatment. Authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze. The team confirmed in a post race statement that the fire started in the fuel area of the pits. Four team personnel were injured in the incident and subsequently taken to the medical centre. Three are now receiving treatment at local hospitals for their injuries, while the fourth has been released. The team will monitor their condition and ensure they receive the best possible care.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling winning my first race. The car felt really consistent, was fantastic to drive and our pace was strong throughout." a delighted Maldonado said post race "Alonso was chasing me hard but we looked after our tyres well and I managed to open the gap towards the end. The team has worked so hard all year and this win is for them. To be the first Venezuelan to win a Formula One race is a big honour and hopefully I will win more races in the future.”
For his part Alonso was delighted with the performance and the fact that the weekend was not great for McLaren and Red Bull in the Championship battle “This second place feels like a victory. Having finished the race in Sakhir almost a minute off the winner, today we overtook one of the two Red Bulls and we fought right to the very end for the win. On top of that, we have made up a lot of points on the Red Bull and the McLaren drivers, which makes the outcome of this weekend even more positive.
"At the end of the second stint of the race came the key moment: maybe Maldonaldo pitted a bit early and we stayed out on track, but we lost time behind a backmarker for a whole lap, partly because there was a yellow flag on the last part of the main straight. Then, with seven laps to go, I suddenly lost grip at the rear: I asked the team if something was broken because the handling of the car changed from one moment to the next, for no apparent reason. However, in the final stages, the Williams was still very quick and, right at the end, we were also lucky to hang onto second place as Kimi was coming back at me.
"This championship is very hard to interpret with all the different winners and the performance of the top teams going up and down from race to race. We definitely did not do the best job when it came to designing the car – there is still much to do – but we can be proud of how we got the most out of our potential, probably over and above the limits of the car. After two Grands Prix – China and Bahrain – where we suffered a lot, to be back for the podium is very positive and gives us confidence for the rest of the Championship. We must continue to bring updates all the time for the car, because it is all very close and the slightest thing can make the difference.”
For the two Australians Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo it was a race to forget. Webber started 11th and finished the race there following mid race issues with his front wing.
Ricciardo again finished just behind his young teammate in 13th and once again the Toro Rosso seemed off the pace all weekend.
Webber was unsure what lay behind his wing problems, which cost him time on the track and in the pits “It was an interesting race and a difficult first lap. I don’t know where I got damage to my front wing, but I had to pit for a new nose. I lost a lot of time with that – and on the few laps before when it started playing up. We had to pit and when you’re out of position here it’s tough – you have to look after your tyres and when you catch people your tyres get killed, so it’s chicken and egg. If you push past them, you have to pit earlier and commit to another stop. It was a mystery with the pace; I was stuck behind Force India, you see the McLarens weren’t doing so much and Seb was just chipping away.”
meanwhile felt the team made some progress compared to Bahrain but that he lacked pace late in the race “I did not have too great a start, but with our strategy we managed to make up a few places. There were some parts of the race where we ran quite strongly, but in the final stint on new Primes, we no longer had the pace we had in the previous stint. I had managed to look after the tyres quite well all the way to the end and produce relatively good lap times, but by then we had lost too much time. It had looked for a while as though we might have been able to challenge for tenth but it did not pan out that way. Overall, it was a bit up and down, but at least it showed some slight progress compared to Bahrain.”
Spanish Grand Prix
1 Pastor Maldonado Williams Renault
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
3 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
5 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari
6 Sebastien Vettel Red Bull Racing Renault
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
8 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes
9 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes
11 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing Renault
13 Daniel Riccidardo Toro Rosso Ferrari