• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

'Pastor drove outstandingly well'

Karun Chandhok May 17, 2012
Pastor Maldonado and Sir Frank Williams celebrate victory in Spain © Sutton Images
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Surprise doesn't even begin to describe the result of the Spanish Grand Prix. After Bahrain, all the talk was of a Red Bull resurgence and of how McLaren will be the ones who could perhaps hang on to them - who could've imagined a Williams/Ferrari battle for the win! I bet even Frank Williams and Stefano Domenicalli would've laughed off suggestions of that on Thursday before the race.

It was wonderful to see Williams win a race again. There's such a 'feel-good factor' with the team throughout the motorsport industry. I honestly believe that a lot of this stems from the fact that the team still holds an attachment to a previous era of the family run operations and it was lovely to see Frank surrounded by his wife and children on this weekend where the F1 world celebrated his 70th birthday. I also think a lot of the goodwill towards the team comes from people's admiration for Frank who, despite his physical condition since 1986, has steered the team to multiple world championships. Anyone who wants to know just how hard he has had to fight to survive must read his wife Virginia's fantastic book "A different kind of life". It's very hard to find - believe me, I spent years searching and then finally entered into a bidding war on ebay to buy my copy which Ginny kindly signed for me last year!

Pastor drove outstandingly well all weekend. When Fernando jumped ahead at the start, I thought, like most others, that this is going to be a two horse race between Kimi and Fernando. As the race wore on it was interesting to see how Pastor's pace was actually very good, while the Lotus dropped back early on. I think Pastor and Xevi, his race engineer who was Bruno's engineer when we were together at HRT in 2010, did an outstanding job in qualifying by saving up three new sets of the harder tyres for the race which meant that they had new tyres for every stint of the grand prix. This proved to be key in the race when taking on Fernando's used tyres at various times in the race.

They made a great call to pit early on lap 24 and try and use new tyres to leap-frog Fernando. The fact that the Ferrari got held up a bit by Charles Pic played into Pastor's hands, but the Venezuelan delivered the fastest lap of the race at the same time to do his part. When things shook out, he was six seconds ahead - a lot more than the time than Fernando lost behind Pic. From there on, it was a straight fight in terms of tyre management. The gap see-sawed a bit and at one point in the final stint Fernando got within the DRS zone, but the Williams seemed to have very good traction out of the final chicane and last corner which meant that Pastor always had just about enough in hand into turn one. Also, the DRS zone in Barcelona wasn't quite as effective as some other places we've seen.

Fernando Alonso's tyres took a battering behind Pastor Maldonado © Sutton Images
Driving around in the dirty air of the Williams must have damaged Fernando's tyres more and in the end he faded away from Pastor and slowly dropped into being a prey for Kimi behind. The fact Lotus haven't yet won a race this year is a bit confusing for me. They've had one of the most consistently fast cars of the season and they've got two very fast drivers. This weekend again, the team looked strong in qualifying but for whatever reason for the first two stints they lacked pace and then ended up going seven laps longer than the leaders for Kimi's final stop before giving him a chance to charge to the flag. Perhaps the team need to look at their strategies a bit - in China they were a bit too optimistic and in Bahrain you do wonder why they weren't a bit more adventurous with trying the undercut like Williams did with Pastor's second stop in Spain. At one stage we heard the team say to Kimi that he had one less pitstop to make than the two cars in front and was therefore looking good - quite how and why they thought that is a bit confusing.

McLaren will feel that this is a race they lost. Lewis looked stunning in Q3 and his lap showed all the signs of a driver back to operating at his absolute peak. It was a real shame for him with the fuel saga at the end of the session and I'm sure there's a major investigation going on about why they didn't have enough in. I did wonder if they knew he didn't have enough fuel in the car before he started his final lap, why they didn't pull him in and at least start in sixth - perhaps they didn't realise the penalty would be so harsh. One does get the feeling that Lewis' win, like the Lotus one will come soon.

Off to Monaco next - would you bet against a sixth winner in six races? No chance!