Williams: Maldonado practice incident 'avoidable'
30 May 2012
The Williams F1 team has described the collision between Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez in final free practice for last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix as 'avoidable', rueing the fact that the resulting penalty all but ruled out the chance of a second strong race for the Venezuelan.
Maldonado arrived in Monaco as the latest addition to the list of grand prix winners, having taken victory in Barcelona two weeks previously, and had left Spain being hailed as a hero, having helped to rescue people form the fire that subsequently engulfed the Williams pit area at the Circuit de Catalunya. However, what should have been a return to a circuit has become a happy hunting ground since his time in GP2 turned sour in Saturday morning practice, as Maldonado undid a lot of the good he did in Barcelona with one moment of rashness.
The Williams driver had appeared capable of posting top ten times throughout the three free practice sessions but, when he happened upon Sauber's Perez approaching Portier, appeared to turn in on the Mexican, rather than attempting to take the corner. Perez was on a slow lap and had tried to move over for faster traffic behind, but Maldonado's action pincered the C31 against the barriers, making hard contact with its left front corner. Although both cars continued, Maldonado only made it as far as Casino Square on his next lap, before collecting the inside barrier and being thrown across the road, continuing to damage his FW34.
While the Venezuelan shrugged off both incidents as the result of struggling with worn tyres an little grip, the stewards did not see it that way, handing down a ten-place grid penalty that ultimately dropped Maldonado to 19th after qualifying, before losing a further five places to a gearbox change - ironically lining up on the back row with Perez, who had had his left-front corner fail before setting a timed lap.
Having had time to reflect on the weekend as a whole, Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan appeared to share the stewards' view of events.
"I think that the incident was avoidable and therefore disappointing - the penalty was therefore understandable," he admitted, before revealing the extent of Maldonado's misdemeanour on the team's fortunes, "The car was good enough for a P4 or P5 qualifying position, and our race pace was also good, so it is disappointing not to have come away from this event with a decent haul of points."
In the end, Williams had to be content with a single addition to its already healthy tally, after Bruno Senna came through to secure tenth place in the final few laps.
"Bruno was very honest after qualifying, admitting that he could have done better," Gillan revealed, "He pushed hard through the race, but was ultimately frustrated by Kimi [Raikkonen], who held him up. We will continue to work hard with Bruno in the simulator and on the track to help him maximise the new tyres' performance."
Tyres were inevitably the talk of the weekend, but Gillan insisted that he had not been surprised by the majority decision to try and complete the 78-lap race on a single change of rubber.
"The tyre performed pretty well [as expected] in terms of both pace and durability, [and one-stopping was] not really [a surprise], as the tyres were capable of a one-stop and it was likely to have been the default strategy for the majority of the field."
With the Canadian Grand Prix next on the schedule, Gillan remains confident that Maldonado can bounce back from his moment of Monaco madness - he was subsequently caught up in the first lap melee on raceday, colliding with the rear of Pedro de la Rosa and ending his race in the tyre wall - and produce another strong run at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where former team-mate Rubens Barrichello finished ninth last season.
"Montreal is usually an eventful race, with multiple stops, high brake wear and the chance of a safety car being very likely," he mused, "However, the team are looking forward to it as we believe that we should be strong again - but we need to deliver in both qualifying and the race. "