Pastor Maldonado confounded the experts, and resisted concerted pressure from home favourite Fernando Alonso to become the fifth different winner in as many F1 races in 2012.
The Venezuelan may have lost the advantage of his surprise pole position to Alonso on the run to the opening corner of the race, but remained close enough to his rival to use the opportunity of an early second pit-stop and Alonso being held up by Marussia's Charles Pic to retake the initiative as the race moved into its second half.
Although Kimi Raikkonen temporarily took the lead, the Finn's second stop promoted Maldonado back to the front and, although Alonso closed in after the Williams lost valuable seconds at its final stop, Maldonado held firm under the threat of the Spaniard's DRS. Eventually, the Ferrari's rear tyres cried enough and, despite having stopped later than Maldonado, Alonso began to drop away, and into the clutches of the charging Raikkonen, whose Lotus team had gambled on the leaders either needing an extra stop or falling 'off the cliff' in pursuit of victory.
Ultimately, the Finn's challenge came up 0.6secs short of claiming second, and he had to settle for the final podium spot, ten seconds ahead of Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean. Kamui Kobayashi completed an unusual top five, over a minute in arrears of the winner, after making up places in the closing laps.
Among the Sauber's victims were both McLarens and Nico Rosberg, who also finished behind world champion Sebastian Vettel, the German having overcome four pit-stops - including a drive-thru' for ignoring yellow flags - to claim sixth spot. Rosberg crossed the line next, just holding off Lewis Hamilton, who claimed eighth on the only two-stop strategy from the very back of the grid, while Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg completed the point-scorers.
Mark Webber summed up Red Bull's disappointing day in eleventh, exactly where he started, after having to make an unscheduled stop for a new nose, just as Vettel had, while Michael Schumacher dropped out after ramming Bruno Senna at turn one while the pair ran with vastly different tyre wear.
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