Pastor Maldonado pulled off the shock of the season when he claimed an assured victory at the Spanish GP on Sunday.
The Venezuelen started from pole position after Lewis Hamilton was excluded from qualifying and had a solid start, slotting into second place behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. The Williams and the Ferrari were involved in a race-long duel at the front shadowed by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and further back by Romain Grosjean who hit two cars on his way to P4. He was followed home by Kamui Kobayashi in P5 and Sebastian Vettel in P6.
Both Mclarens and Red Bulls had mediocre races, but nothing to compare with that of Michael Schumacher who misjudged his braking and slammed into the back of Bruno Senna's Williams eliminating both cars on Lap 13.
Race Reportbr>It was a pale sun shining down on Barcelona but no rain as had been forecast earlier in the week with an ambient temperature of 22C and the track at 33C. There was a great deal of surprise that the stewards had relegated polesitter Lewis Hamilton to the back of the grid after being underfuelled for his final run in Q3.
1. Pastor Maldonado, 2.Fernando Alonso Ferrari, 3.Romain Grosjean, 4. Kimi Raikkonen, 5.Sergio Perez, 6.Nico Rosberg, 7. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull, 8.Michael Schumacher, 9. Kamui Kobayashi, 10 Jenson Button, 11.Mark Webber, 12. Paul di Resta, 13.Nico Hulkenberg, 14.Jean-Eric Vergne, 15.Daniel Ricciardo, 16.Felipe Massa,17.Bruno Senna, 18.Vitaly Petrov, 19.Heikki Kovalainen, 20.Charles Pic, 21.Timo Glock, 22.Pedro de la Rosa, 23.Narain Karthikeyan, 24.Lewis Hamilton
Elevated to pole after Lewis Hamilton's summary demotion to the back of the grid Pastor Maldonado got a great getaway and moved across the racing line to block Fernando Alonso. Having snatched the lead from P4 last year, snatching it from P2 this year was fairly easy. Maldonado braved it out as long as he could, but Alonso had the inside line and the lead into Turn 1 was his.
Further back Romain Grosjean got jumped by Kimi Raikkonen and tagged a fast-starting Sergio Perez going out of Turn 1, pushing Perez off track. Perez got a puncture and had to pit at the end of the lap - although not before he rejoined the track in a dangerous way, something missed by the stewards.
Positions at the end of Lap One
1.Alonso, 2.Maldonado, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Rosberg, 5.Grosjean, 6.Schumacher, 7.Vettel, 8.Button, 9.Kobayashi, 10.Vergne, 11.Massa, 12.Webber, 13.DiResta
Felipe Massa had got an excellent start but was immediately under pressure from Mark Webber. Lewis Hamilton was up to P17 by Lap 3 having had a very cautious opening lap in which he overtook the Marussias and then lost places to them again. By Lap 9 he was up to P13.
The Red Bulls had average starts and on Lap 7 Mark Webber was in for harder tyres, followed a lap later by Sebastian Vettel.
At the front Fernando Alonso wasn't sprinting away from Pastor Maldonado, though both were edging out a gap to Raikkonen, who in turn was getting a significant edge on Grosjean. Despite the second Lotus losing part of his front wing with his bump on Perez he was continuing at speed.
On Lap 10 Alonso and Grosjean pitted for the first time, followed a lap later by Maldonado and Raikkonen. Grosjean's pit-stop had put him behind the yet-to-stop Bruno Senna and the Lotus driver wanted to get past him in a hurry. He barged into Senna on the inside of Turn 1 and lost more bodywork. Despite the collision there was no investigation - Grosjean's second contact in the race.
Senna was already losing time on worn tyres, but they weren't bad enough to allow the following Michael Schumacher to take advantage, after a lap behind the Williams he was able to use the DRS down the main straight and close up rapidly on Senna into Turn 1. Although the Brazilian moved his car slightly in the braking zone it looked very much like Schumacher wasn't expecting him to brake so early and piled into the back, taking both cars out of the race. The stewards decided they would rule on that clash after the race.
The accident put a great deal of debris on the racing line and although in other situations Race Director Charlie Whiting has brought out the Safety Car, in this situation he chose to cover the hazard with double waved yellows - although both Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel would pick up drive-through penalties for not slowing down enough going past them.
Lewis Hamilton was in for tyres as late as Lap 15 and again he had a slight problem with his left-rear (the problem corner in Bahrain) after the used tyre wasn't cleared away following the stop. This time the delay was fractional.Alonso's gap to Maldonado was 3.4 seconds on Lap 12, but the Venezuelan was chipping away at his lap times and the gap started to come down.
Positions at the end of Lap 18
1.Alonso, 2.Maldonado, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Grosjean, 5.Rosberg, 6.Vettel, 7.Button, 8.Kobayashi, 9.DiResta, 10.Vergne, 11.Massa, 12.Hamilton.
Having closed the gap, Maldonado pitted on Lap 25. Ferrari's usual practice is to cover off pit-stops but they left Fernando Alonso out two laps longer and in that time Maldonado made up the deficit to Alonso - including the Fastest lap of 1:27.906 and when the Ferrari emerged from pitlane it was back in P2. By Lap 30 Maldonado had a 7-second lead
Nico Rosberg had lost a place to Grosjean early on and looked to be under pressure from Jenson Button, who had Kamui Kobayashi on his gearbox. But as Button's challenge (and tyres) faded, Kobayashi took advantage and elbowed him out of the way going into Turn 10 on Lap 34. Kamui tried and failed to make the same move on Nico Rosberg.
Positions at the end of Lap 37
1.Maldonado, 2.Alonso, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Grosjean, 5.Rosberg, 6.Kobayashi, 7.Button, 8.Vettel, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Webber, 11.Vergne, 12.Ricciardo, 13.Hamilton
Vettel had dropped behind Button and Kobayashi following his drive-through penalty. On Lap 38 he was able to get past Button again; although catching Kobayashi would ultimately prove beyond him
However most of the attention was at the front of the race. Having enjoyed a seven-second lead all of a sudden Maldonado was suffering from being the lead car and the first to hit backmarkers and the gap started to come down.
Williams gave him a cautious final pit-stop on Lap 42 and two laps later Alonso was in for the final time - both cars needing to run through till Lap 66 on these tyres, because any further stops would hand the race to the Lotus of Raikkonen.
In between the stops Sebastian Vettel had stopped for tyres and a new nose. Mark Webber had done the same earlier and although the team wouldn't confirm it, it was thought that both RBRs broke them by running too much on the high kerbs.
At this stage of the race it was a straight duel between Maldonado and Alonso. Raikkonen had yet to stop and was caught by the duo, with Maldonado passing on Lap 47 and Alonso passing the Finn on Lap 48, after which Kimi immediately pitted.
Hopes were high in the Spanish grandstands as Alonso closed the gap very quickly to Maldonado in the final stint and was into the DRS zone by Lap 51. Behind them Kimi and then Romain Grosjean were trading fastest sectors in their late-race pursuit. The small gap between the Williams and the Ferrari ebbed and flowed. By Lap 54 Pastor had eked out a 1.2 second gap, but when the Williams was slowed by a lapped Toro Rosso Fernando was suddenly back in the DRS zone again.
Through Laps 56, 57 and 58 the Williams looked to be deploying its KERS out of the final corner to get a big enough lead going into the DRS zone of the main straight. By Lap 59 there was a slight gap as Alonso's tyres began to go away. This would grow bigger and bigger until Raikkonen started looming large in Alonso's mirrors in the final two laps.
Behind these three Grosjean was in a lonely P4 but Kamui Kobayashi renewed his attentions on Nico Rosberg and passed him with a friendly nudge into Turn 10 to take P5 on Lap 61. Two laps earlier the newly-nosed Sebastian Vettel had put a clean move on Jenson Button into Turn 10 and by the end of the race was able to go round the outside of Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1 for P7. He wasn't finished though.
Nico Rosberg's tyres were now failing fast and such was the difference in speed that Vettel passed him on the inside going up into Turn 9 - never a passing place at Barcelona. Rosberg was able to hang onto P7 despite coming under pressure from Hamilton on the final lap. Similarly, Fernando Alonso was agonisingly in sight of Kimi Raikkonen at the chequered flag, but Kimi needed an extra 67th lap to do anything.
However all the attention went to Pastor Maldonado winning a race for the 70-years-of-age celebrant Sir Frank Williams. There couldn't have been two more popular winners in the paddock. The team's last victory had been in 2004 with Juan-Pablo Montoya in Brazil and in one race they had scored more points than the whole of last season.
An explosion, thought to be a discharged KERS device on Bruno Senna's car put a slight dampener on the celebrations, but it was now five different race winners in the five grands prix of 2012. F1 had cause to celebrate.
01 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:29.735
02 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:29.598 3.100
03 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:27.943 3.800
04 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:27.852 14.700
05 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:30.126 64.600
06 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:28.468 67.500
07 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.740 77.900
08 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:32.438 78.100
09 Jenson Button McLaren 1:32.052 85.200
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:31.606 1 lap
11 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:31.322 1 lap
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:32.114 1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:30.172 1 lap
14 Paul di Resta Force India 1:31.291 1 lap
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:31.233 1 lap
16 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:31.352 1 lap
17 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:31.618 1 lap
18 Timo Glock Marussia 1:31.070 2 lap
19 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:31.887 3 lap
R Sergio Perez Sauber RETIRED 29 laps 3
R Charles Pic Marussia RETIRED 31 lap
R Narain Karthikeyan HRT RETIRED 44 laps
R Bruno Senna Williams RETIRED 54 laps
R Michael Schumacher Mercedes RETIRED 54 laps