It was a long road back to the top of the podium for the Williams racing team and it came Sunday, in Spain, with Pastor Maldonado getting his first Formula 1 win.
The Venezuelan driver was handed the pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix after McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid due to a rules infraction. The Williams pilot took full advantage of the good fortune, moved to the front after the second round of pit stops and then held off a streaking Fernando Alonso for his first career victory.
“It’s a wonderful day for me and for the team,” Maldonado said after the race. “It was a tough race, with the strategy and a couple of laps we were struggling. But the car was so competitive from the first lap … An unforgettable race.”
Alonso put the pressure on and kept trying to push for the lead, but couldn’t get by the Williams car. The Spaniard, whose only win on home soil came in 2006, said that he tried “to get in front but it wasn’t possible.” Maldonado said former world champion filled his mirror at times.
“There was some moments when he was so close, but I managed the gap,” Maldonado said.
Kimi Räikkönen finished third behind Maldonado and Alonso. The second-place finish moves Alonso into a first-place tie with two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel in the hunt for the 2012 drivers’ championship after five races.
Hamilton was made to start from the rear of the field after his car run out of fuel after qualifying first on the grid. Hamilton couldn’t make it back to the pits, which is in breach of rules set by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Rules say a qualifying car must make it back to the pits under its own power and have enough fuel to provide one litre for testing.
“A team member had put an insufficient quantity of fuel into the car, thereby resulting in the car having to be stopped on the circuit in order to be able to provide the required amount for sampling purposes,” read the statement from FIA. “The stewards determined that this is a breach of Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations and the competitor is accordingly excluded from the results of the qualifying session. The competitor is however allowed to start the race from the back of the grid.”
The next race on the Formula 1 calendar is the Grand Prix of Monaco on May 27.