Maldonado cruises to first ever win

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Pastor Maldonado sealed his first ever F1 win with a brilliant drive in Spain, home favourite Fernando Alonso had to make do with 2nd place as Maldonado earned Williams’ first victory since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004 and the first for a Venezuelan in F1’s entire history.

Maldonado has been regularly described as a ‘pay driver’ since his arrival into F1 but around the Circuit da Catalunya it was a show of dominance as he kept Alonso behind to become the fifth winner in as many races. 2012 is the year that just keeps on shocking us.

The rarity of his position was never obvious as Maldonado, who looked like a man used to being up at the sharp end, showed a mature head to bring the car home under huge pressure from Fernando Alonso.

It is fitting that as the 70th birthday celebrations of Sir Frank Williams were in full swing this weekend, they chalked up their first win since 2004, especially after it only being one year on from the worst season in their history, it wasn’t just a lucky win as Maldonado lapped a Red Bull and he also left McLaren trailing by over a minute.

Although pre-race expectations that both Maldonado and Alonso not being able to keep their surprisingly high positions, it was almost suddenly obvious that the Williams and Ferrari, well at least in the hands of their lead drivers, were the quickest cars on show as the pair battled for the lead from first corner to last.

Kimi Raikkonen’s late attack saw him close to under three seconds of Alonso at the chequered flag, But on a track that was described as giving the ultimate test to show the season’s pecking order, it would be Williams and Ferrari in a return to the old days who held the clear advantage.

It may have been different had the Lotus chose the hard tyres instead of the softs at the first pitstops or if Hamilton who drove brilliantly in his defeat of Jenson Button for eighth place having started from the back of the grid, fourteen places behind the grid position of his McLaren team-mate had not been slowed by his team’s latest error, but it would be harsh to suggest that Maldonado’s win was anything other than deserved.

Only once did his team buckle, when a sticky left-wheel nut at Maldonado’s third and final stop saw his advantage halved, but otherwise it was a brilliant race for him, And against Alonso, whose excellence has been shown many times before, makes it all the more incredible.

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Spanish GP Qualifying Report

With a breezy wind and high temperatures, Qualifying for the Spanish GP was heating up nicely.

Q1 saw the usual suspects knocked out at Caterham, Marussia and HRT but the man to join them was Williams driver Bruno Senna, he couldn’t get near the cut off time set by Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso, Senna also spun off on the same corner that he spun in practice. Lewis Hamilton topped that session with Grosjean and Alonso behind him.

Q2 was the session that gave us a few shocks with both Jenson Button and Mark Webber missing out on a place in Q3, Pastor Maldonado went quickest in this session with both Saubers making it through aswell however one of them, Kamui Kobayashi couldn’t participate in Q3 after having to stop the car at the end of the session.

Q3 was a dull start followed by an explosion of activity with hardly any laps being set for the first half of the session, Lewis Hamilton did set a lap and was on provisional pole, then came the flurry of activity, most of the cars went out, Vettel and Schumacher didn’t set lap times but will start ahead of Kobayashi, the 2 Germans will start 8th and 9th respectively. Nico Rosberg wasn’t as quick as he would’ve liked with only 7th on the grid, Rosberg is just behind Sergio Perez who will have high hopes for the race tomorrow starting 6th, The Lotus team done very well with Grosjean in 4th ahead of teammate Raikkonen in 5th, They have shown great race pace and should be a threat to the podium positions, Home favourite Fernando Alonso exceeded the Ferrari’s expectations to claim an excellent 3rd on the grid. A shock second place comes in the form of Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, he held provisional pole but had to settle for 2nd, still that is his highest grid slot and the best for Williams since Nico Hulkenberg took pole at the 2010 Brazilian GP. But the man on pole is McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton who set a fantastic lap well ahead of the rest to claim his first pole at the Circuit de Catalunya and leave the chances of 5 different winners in the first 5 races still very much alive.

The grid looks like this unless any drivers are penalised by the stewards.

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Friday Practice in Barcelona

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First practice saw the introduction of many new upgrades on the cars and it looked as if Ferrari had improved when Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the session with a 1.24.430 ahead of the Red Bull of World Champion Sebastian Vettel, Kamui Kobayashi impressed for Sauber with 3rd in FP1 and behind him was Jenson Button and Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas who showed some promise in 5th.

The second session saw the McLaren drivers complaining over the radio about balance problems and having to deal with understeer, However Jenson Button was still able to manage the fastest lap time of anyone in the session with a 1.23.399 ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The Lotus team showed some good pace with Raikkonen 5th and Grosjean just behind him in 6th.

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