Maldonado wins Spanish Grand Prix as Alonso challenge fades

Most predicted that Pastor Maldonado would fall back at the start and he did by one place as Fernando Alonso charged up the inside; but when it counts, at the chequered flag; Maldonado was the first to cross the line. Great drive from the Venezuelan and great strategy from the Williams F1 Team, I really couldn’t be happier for Sir Frank Williams and his team after last seasons low point and the 8 years since the last win for Williams F1, Juan Pablo Montoya in Brazil back in 2004.

After initially leading; Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fell back to second during the second round of pitstops, Ferrari being out-thought by Williams. The Spaniard being held up by the Marussia of Charles Pic also helped Maldonado leapfrog the Ferrari. Alonso closed right up onto Maldonado’s gearbox in the final stint of the race but couldn’t manage to get past the Venezuelan despite having the advantage of DRS down the main straight, the Williams FW34 looked really quick in today’s race! Alonso’s challenge faltered in the final four laps as his Ferrari’s tyres faded.

Kimi Raikkonen claimed the final podium spot in a fairly anonymous manner, despite leading the race on two occasions. The Finn really didn’t come to the fore until near the end of the race when he was closing in on Alonso’s Ferrari on newer rubber. Another couple of laps and Raikkonen may well have claimed second place as Alonso struggled to get the power down out of the corners.

Raikkonen’s Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean completed a Lotus 3 – 4 with another solid, if unspectacular performance. Kamui Kobayashi had a battling race banging wheels with Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg to claim fifth place for Sauber, up four places for ninth, really happy to see Sauber at the sharp end of the grid, I have a soft spot for the privateer teams like Sauber and Williams. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel came home in sixth place passing Button and Rosberg in the closing laps after serving a drive-through penalty for failing to slow for waved yellow flags.

Mercedes’ Rosberg took the chequered flag in seventh place, holding off the hard charging Lewis Hamilton who came from stone last after being excluded from the qualifying session for stopping out on track because of a fueling mix-up in the McLaren garage. Hamilton made up 16 places during the course of the race, although there were still problems in his second pit stop, the Briton losing 3.5 seconds as he ran over one of the tyres just taken off the car, which could have made the difference between seventh and eighth places, all-in-all, a good day for Hamilton; finishing ahead of his team mate Jenson Button who started 14 places ahead. It was a poor show from Button, he started in 10th and finished ninth, pretty poor given Hamilton’s achievements in this race!

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg claimed the final points paying position ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber who just seemed to struggle with tyres all race long. I don’t know what happened to Hulkenberg’s team mate Paul di Resta who started ahead of the German, the Scot went backwards as the German went forward into the points, a day to forget for the Brits in F1 I would say!

Michael Schumacher has been handed a five place grid penalty for Monaco after he was judged to have caused an avoidable collision that took himself and Williams’ Bruno Senna out on lap 12. The German seemingly failed to slow down enough and ploughed into the back of Senna’s Williams.

The only dark cloud today was the one coming from the Williams pit garage about 80 minutes after Maldonado lifted the winners trophy on the podium. The entire Williams garage was set ablaze after a suspected KERS malfunction sparked a fuel fire leaving the Williams garage gutted and five people, four Williams and one Force India employees needing treatment for smoke inhalation. It looks like there was no serious injuries and I am surprised how quickly the F1 ‘community’ reacted, mechanics from all teams ran with fire extinguishers to fight the fire, these guys are real heroes running into a burning garage to help out a fellow team. It’s just a shame that this had to happen today of all days, as Williams celebrated their first win since Interlagos, Brazil 2004.

Extended and updated: Williams & FIA release statements as 31 treated after fire @GPFocus

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