Pastor Maldonado admitted it was an 'unbelievable feeling' to secure his first victory in F1 during a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya.
The Venezuelan, who had been a 500/1 outsider with some bookmakers in the week leading up to the race, qualified on the front row of the grid for Williams but was then promoted onto pole position when McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was excluded from the results and demoted to the back of the field.
Although he lost the lead to Fernando Alonso off the line, Maldonado was able to keep pace with the Ferrari man ahead before Williams rolled the dice and elected to bring him in ahead of Alonso for his second stop. With Alonso then encountering traffic before pitting himself, Maldonado moved to the front and despite a small delay on his final stop and pressure from the double champion behind, it was the Williams driver who emerged victorious to give the team its first win for some eight years.
“It's an unbelievable feeling winning my first race,” he said. “The car felt really consistent, was fantastic to drive and our pace was strong throughout. Alonso was chasing me hard but we looked after our tyres well and I managed to open the gap towards the end. The team has worked so hard all year and this win is for them. To be the first Venezuelan to win a Formula One race is a big honour and hopefully I will win more races in the future.
“It was so close [in the final stages]. We were looking to manage the tyre degradation so I wasn't pushing that hard, just to keep the tyres alive for the end of the race and Fernando got too close. There were some moments that he was so close, especially at the end of the straight. But I was managing the gap and controlling everything. I think our pace today was pretty strong and the car looks fantastic. Even the team. We did a small mistake at the last pit stop but it doesn't affect our performance.”
The victory means Maldonado is the fifth different winner in as many races this season but he was quick to play down any suggestion that he should now be seen as a championship contender.
“For sure we are a little bit backwards compared with the leaders, with Fernando and Vettel, but we need to keep working,” he said. “We are not the best team at the moment. The car looked pretty good today, but I think we need to keep pushing some particulars at Williams, especially in the car, but everything is possible. The gaps are so close at the moment, I'm driving well, I have a good feeling with the team, with the car, so everything is possible. For sure we are looking to do our best, looking forward to winning some races, to getting a couple more podiums and I'm really happy because the team hasn't won many races for many years so this is a great moment for us. I hope to continue like that.”
Maldonado's victory was overshadowed however by the fire that broke out in the Williams garage around 90 minutes after the race had come to an end, with 31 people being treated and seven hospitalised [See separate story HERE