Maldonado stays calm to win in Spain

Pastor Maldonado has won the Spanish Grand Prix, converting his career first pole position into his maiden victory. Fernando Alonso came second in front of his home fans, and Kimi Raikkonen finished third for his second consecutive podium.

Alonso, starting second on the grid, surged off the line to take the lead into turn one, and gave his home fans some brief hope by pulling away from Maldonado for a few laps. But it was not to last. Maldonado reeled the Ferrari in and eventually passed Alonso during the second round of pitstops, holding on to the lead to take an impressive first Grand Prix victory.

Kimi Raikkonen impressed again, in what is shaping up to be a competitive comeback season. The Finn beat his team-mate Grosjean off the line and, although he lacked pace to challenge for the lead in the early stages of the race, reeled in Alonso at the end to finish only seven tenths behind the Ferrari driver.

Perhaps the most impressive drive of all came from Lewis Hamilton. After being stripped of his pole position yesterday, the McLaren driver started from the back of the grid, storming through the field to run as high as fourth when others were pitting. A two-stop strategy and some thrilling passing moves gave him an eighth place finish.

Kamui Kobayashi showed that Sauber have pace by finishing fifth, providing some entertainment along the way with some daring passing moves, including on Nico Rosberg in the latter stages of the race. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had a mixed day, making some surprising passes into turn nine, but also being penalised with a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. Vettel recovered to sixth by the end of the race, which makes one wonder what he could have done if he’d only lifted off a little more under yellows.

The major on-track incident of the race came when Michael Schumacher ran into the back of Bruno Senna under braking for turn one. Schumacher had just pitted for new tyres, while Senna was still running on worn tyres, and the German was keen to find a way past the Williams without losing too much time. Senna appeared to move towards the inside to defend his position, and then back to the outside under braking. Schumacher, who had gone to the outside in response to Senna’s initial move, tried to avoid the Williams by going back inside Senna when the latter drifted to the outside. Unfortunately for the Mercedes driver, there was simply not enough space left to pull off the move and he clattered into the back of Senna’s car. The misjudgement cost him a probable decent haul of points, and the Stewards added to his woes by handing the seven-time World Champion a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco.

Just when it looked like Felipe Massa was recovering some form at the last race in Bahrain, he rediscovered his 2011 slump in emphatic style. After starting 16th on the grid (team-mate Alonso was on the front row), Massa was found to have ignored yellow flags and handed a drive-through penalty, which destroyed any chance he might have had of scoring points. The penalty notwithstanding, he will undoubtedly not have enjoyed being lapped by Alonso a few laps from the end.

Mercedes had a generally disappointing day. Seventh was the best that Nico Rosberg could achieve, tyre management again proving challenging for the team from Brackley. Schumacher’s pace had looked decent before his collision with Senna, but after another non-finish, the frustration is beginning to show. The car is better than the 2 points Schumacher has taken from the first five races, and he knows it.

The Formula One circus moves to Monaco in two weeks time, where it’s anyone’s guess what the order will be. So far there have been five different winners in five races in 2012. If another winner emerges in Monaco, this will become statistically the most open season in the history of the Formula One World Championship.


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