• The final stint

A Venezuelan masterpiece

Laurence Edmondson and Chris Medland
May 14, 2012
Pastor Maldonado crosses the line for his maiden win © Press Association
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The power of Maldonado

Nobody would have predicted pole position and a victory for Pastor Maldonado, except perhaps the man himself. In a moment of prescience, Maldonado said on Thursday: "Personally I've been concentrating on improving for qualifying, because starting from the back it's always difficult to overtake, it's always difficult to make a good strategy because of the traffic and because of many things. Personally I want to start from the front and to do a good race. I think we have the pace to be competitive and to fight for a good place." Turns out he was right.

Fire in the pit lane!

It was a terrible end to what should have been one of Williams' proudest days in Formula One. After being written off in recent years, it hit back on Sunday with a remarkable win only to have its celebrations cut short by its garage going up in smoke. The scene in the paddock was one of panic as VIPs, journalists and drivers alike fled from a cloud of acrid black smoke that. Fortunately in the pit lane there were calmer heads as Williams personnel and staff from the neighbouring garages got the blaze under control using fire extinguishers and hoses. It was an awful way to end a fantastic weekend for the team, but also a tribute to the bravery and camaraderie among the teams.

Schumacher's on his own

It wasn't Michael Schumacher's most successful weekend. In the race he slammed in to the back of Bruno Senna having misjudged the braking point of the Williams and then proceeded to call Senna an "idiot". The stewards - and most observers - didn't agree with that view, and as a result Schumacher finds himself handed a five-place grid penalty for Monaco. It comes after his Pirelli comments which got little support prior to the race, and he then insisted he wasn't criticising the tyres, merely starting a debate. The race itself delivered the fifth different winner from the fifth different team in five races, and that's in no small part down to Pirelli. The current format makes for great racing and great viewing, long may it remain that way.

The Story of the Weekend

© Getty Images
  • Shock Pastor Maldonado - While Williams looked strong on Friday, nobody predicted one to be on pole come Saturday night and even fewer to see the team win
  • Shocker McLaren's fuel man - Before Lewis Hamilton's final run he took fuel out instead of putting more in, and then ran out of time to add the correct amount, costing Hamilton pole
  • Best overtake Lewis Hamilton - He dispatched Daniel Ricciardo exiting turn three and then went round the outside of Jean-Eric Vergne through turn four to hold the inside of five
  • Best lap Pastor Maldonado - Having made his second stop earlier than Fernando Alonso the Venezuelan put in a storming out-lap (and the following lap too) to leap in to the lead
  • Bad Boy Michael Schumacher - Tried to switch lines too close to the braking zone of turn one and slammed in to the back of Bruno Senna
  • Drive of the day Pastor Maldonado - Despite never having had a chance of winning in Formula One, Maldonado resisted all pressure from Alonso without any mistakes to secure a hugely impressive maiden victory

McLaren gets it wrong ... again

For a team that prides itself on attention to detail, it was surprising to see McLaren drop the ball in qualifying and fail to fuel Lewis Hamilton's car sufficiently. It was even more surprising that the mistake came just one race after pit stop blunders in Bahrain. And it appears the team was surprised as much as the rest of the paddock, as when its data started showing Hamilton's car was low on fuel during his outlap it didn't know whether to believe the computers or not. In the end Martin Whitmarsh said he took the call to allow Hamilton on track and after the race was very candid in his assessment.

"I don't think we, rightly or wrongly, envisaged the severity of the penalty that resulted and also Formula One is a great one for hindsight and there's a lot of analysis from experts to inform you where you got it wrong," he said. "But I put my hand up and as team principal as that was unfolding - bearing in mind you're in the adrenaline fused seconds of qualifying, you're trying to understand what's happening and you've got 10 or 20 people trying to deal with it - I said let's go for it and once we get over the line let's start to monitor. It's not easy [to monitor] you can't just put a dipstick in and find out how much fuel's there, and we could have stopped the car and taken three or four litres out of it and I would have been very embarrassed. I was still pretty embarrassed and that's the challenge and you've got to take those decisions."

Vettel the impressionist

During the FIA press conference on Thursday, Fernando Alonso was flanked by Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. In front of the media it's hard to find two more different characters, and while Kimi sat quietly Seb was in buoyant mood following his Bahrain victory and in the mood for a joke. When Alonso was asked if the rules were clear now following his incident in Bahrain when Nico Rosberg crowded him off the track, Vettel jumped in. Turning to Alonso he did his best Spanish-accented impression of the team radio that was broadcast: "All the time you must leave a space!" Alonso's face almost matched his Ferrari shirt as the media centre burst out in laughter.

One small step for most, one giant leap for Ferrari

Ferrari spent the Thursday and Friday playing down their upgrades, but on Sunday there was no disguising the improvement the team has made since the first four races of the season. Remarkably Fernando Alonso is tied on points at the top of the championship a quarter of the way through the season and the signs are that things will continue to get better for Ferrari. Nevertheless, the team is not getting carried away and believes more needs to be done over the coming races to make it a real championship challenger. After all, it has performed well above expectations this year whereas the likes of McLaren and Lotus have underachieved. But team principal Stefano Domenicali said the marked improvement in Spain is crucial for motivating the team back at Maranello to make the next step forward. "I'm happy because I saw that the job [we've done] in the last weeks has given the right sign in terms of trend, but we know that it's not enough. I'm happy for my people that at least they showed that the job they are doing is moving things in the right direction."