13 May 2012
Fantastic maiden win for Maldonado in Spain
Unfortunately for the team, their other driver Sergio Perez had only bad luck in Barcelona. He sustained a puncture in the opening corners, no doubt slicing his back wheel on the end plate of someone's front wing in that initial period of tight pack running; and on lap 38 his race ended for good after a botched pit stop left him parked on the side of the track a few moments later.
Behind Kobayashi in sixth place at the line was Sebastian Vettel, but it had hardly been a vintage day for the double world champion or for Red Bull in general. A problem with the front wings on both team cars forced mid-race changes on them, which compromised the race strategy. Mark Webber in any case had been struggling for pace and ended up out of the points, so at least Vettel's late race surge up through the positions with neat moves on Rosberg and the McLarens to make up for a mid-race drive-thru penalty for not observing local yellow flags.
Rosberg held on to seventh in a dash to the line with Lewis Hamilton, who had worked all afternoon to recover from that shattering blow of being sent to the back of the grid. Hamilton had been true to his word of fighting back, and while the attempt at a two-stop strategy had its drawback in terms of some terrible fall-off in pace at points, it nonetheless resulted in a not-to-be-sniffed-at eighth place, one ahead of Jenson Button whose form simply didn't materialise all afternoon and who clearly hated every set of tyres he was handed.
Nico Hulkenberg gave Force India a consolation point by finishing in tenth place, but his team mate Paul di Resta could only manage 14th place and finished just ahead of Felipe Massa in the Ferrari that many assume will be di Resta's company car in a year or two; Massa had a decent start on a rare set of brand new soft tyres rather than the scuffed ones used by most off the grid, but like Vettel he was hit with a mid-race drive-thru penalty for not respecting yellow flags that knocked him out of the running.
The yellow flags in question had been the result of a lap 13 accident which saw Michael Schumacher's Mercedes plough into the back of Pastor Maldonado's team mate, Bruno Senna, going into turn 1. The impact shattered Senna's rear wing and left Schumacher beached in the gravel, putting both drivers out of the race.
Was it consolation or torture for Bruno Senna that this allowed him to watch the remainder of the race with the Williams team in pit lane? What mixed feelings he must have had as he watched his team mate Pastor Maldonado - once so casually dismissed as a mere pay-driver, but now confirmed to be something so much more than that - clinch the team's first Grand Prix victory since Juan Pablo Montoya last won in 2004.
That was a very long time ago for Williams; and the halcyon days of world championships upon world championships even further back. So far distant that they, too, feel more like a distant, dimming dream than reality.
When the team rouses itself on Monday doubtless suffering the mother of all hangovers after the night before, there is now another dream living in the hearts and minds of the Williams personnel in 2012. And this one is richly, satisfyingly, sparklingly new and fresh.
Happy 70th birthday, Sir Frank. No, you're not dreaming. Honestly. At least, we don't think we are ...
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