The adage of pole-sitter-wins at Circuit de Catalunya was upheld yet again as Williams’ Pastor Maldonado drove a controlled race to claim victory from pole position at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso led the race for the initial stages but had to settle for second after the Williams jumped him during the second round of pit stops. Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen continued his return to F1 with a fine third place.
Romain Grosjean made it a good day at the races for Lotus as he finished fourth, ahead of a typically aggressive Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel brought home his Red Bull in sixth place, ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in seventh and eighth respectively. Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg rounded off the top ten points scorers.
Alonso had got the better of Maldonado at the start of the race and led for the initial laps but to his credit, Maldonado didn’t let him get away too far and though Alonso maintained his lead at the first round of pit stops, it all played into Williams hands at the second round of stops. This time around Maldonado stopped first and set a series of fastest laps which enabled him to stay ahead of the Ferrari when Alonso stopped a couple of laps later. The lead was never relinquished and although Alonso did come within one second towards the latter stages of the race, Maldonado had it under control.
Behind them both the Lotuses had a decent outing but if it were a slightly longer race, Raikkonen would have caught Alonso and maybe pass him to take second place – he had reduced a deficit of 18 seconds to nearly half-a-second by the time the chequered flag fell! Grosjean paced himself well and ensured he finished behind Raikkonen for the second successive race, albeit just a place lower this time around.
There were mini battles up and down the order and Sebastian Vettel featured in most of them as he made up several places towards the fag end of the race to bring home the points in sixth place. Teammate Mark Webber finished out of the points in twelfth. Arguably the toughest drive of the day belonged to both the McLarens – Hamilton taking a two-stop strategy to enable him finish up the order & Jenson Button struggling with tyre grip throughout the race and eventually finishing ninth.
Dufus move of the day was arguably Michael Schumacher’s as he ran into the back of a slow-moving Williams of Bruno Senna, his actions earning him a five place grid penalty for the next race at Monaco. Sergio Perez was an early retirement due to an ill-fitted rear tyre, joining Narain Karthikeyan and Charles Pic as non-finishers.
Maldonado’s win makes it five different winners for each of the five races this season and going into the glitz n’ glam race at Monaco, the Championship lead is shared by Vettel & Alonso with Vettel ahead on placing count back. Felipe Massa’s continued non-performance means Lotus forge ahead of Ferrari in third place in the Constructors’ Championship, whose lead is still Red Bull’s with McLaren second.