ART Grand Prix took its first win of the new GP2 Series season after Pastor Maldonado made the most of the sort of lucky breaks punters in Monaco's legendary casino long for.

The Venezuelan, an acknowledged expert around the streets of the Principality after previous wins in both GP2 and the World Series by Renault, started Saturday's sprint event from pole position, but only after several rivals had been penalised for cutting Ste Devote on the opening lap of the feature race. Despite the circumstances, however, Maldonado was not going to waste the opportunity to add to his Monaco legacy, although he initially had to give best to ORT's Karun Chandhok.

The Indian came barrelling past on the opening lap, and appeared on course for his team's maiden GP2 success, only to be denied by a driveshaft failure with the flag in sight. Maldonado, running a couple of seconds off the lead, was thus handed his second winning ticket of the weekend, eventually taking victory when the red flag flew a couple of laps sky of the scheduled distance.

"The weekend didn't really start well, but the conclusion is just perfect!" the first year ART driver admitted, "I could not find a clean lap in qualifying, I was not that fast and I could not put my best sectors together. Starting from P14, I knew the race was going to be a tough one. The most important thing was to stay calm and, in the end, it paid back with eighth place and pole position for the second race.

"We improved a lot during the weekend and I have to give credit to an amazing team. I did not make a great start on Saturday, and that's too bad because I think we were the fastest on track, but I was pushing hard and got close to Chandhok a couple of times, although it was too risky to go further. I waited for him to make a mistake because the smallest one you make here you pay for in cash!

"In the end, he did not make any, but his car did, and, once in front, I saved my tyres, my engine. Then the safety car came out and destroyed my 20-second gap. However, I made a good re-start and opened up a gap of 4-5 seconds in two laps."

Maldonado's third win in four years in Monaco was completed by rookie team-mate Nico Hulkenberg bringing the second ART entry home in third place, adding to the fifth place he scored in Friday's feature. However, while Maldonado benefited from drivers cutting the corner in race one, the German was among those to suffer as he was penalised for doing just that when he attempted to avoid Vitaly Petrov - despite allowing the Russian driver to keep his position. Add in another place lost due to a problematic pit-stop and the reigning F3 Euroseries champion could have been better placed in the higher-scoring race.

Race two saw him engage in an impressive battle with DAMS Jerome d'Ambrosio and several other more experienced racers who were attacking him, but Hulkenberg drove a faultless race and climb two places to make it a double podium for ART.

"I have to say I like Monaco," the German enthused, "It was my first time here and the track is so narrow and twisty that, the more you drive, the more you're confident. You have to find where to turn, where to brake and where to put the throttle down in every square metre. That's a bit scary at first, but it's pure pleasure when you get used to it and try to be better each time you go out on track.

"Starting from P3, I had nowhere to go in the first corner with Petrov being all over the place - I had no choice but to cut the corner. I slowed down to give Petrov his position back and show that I took no advantage from the manoeuvre, but the stewards decided the other way. They sanctioned all the drivers who cut the chicane with no distinction because several of them did it on purpose to gain places. Then my pit-stop was a bit on the slow side and [Lucas] di Grassi got past me.

"The 25-second penalty was a shame as I lost one position, but you always have to see the glass half full and the good thing is that I won a position on the starting grid for race two. d'Ambrosio was much slower than me and I was under a lot of pressure from the guys behind - it was a complex situation, but I handled it well I think. In the end, I just settled down in P3 to be sure to bring the car home with a podium in hand."

ART now lies third in the teams' championship after two double-header rounds, while Maldonado is fourth and H?lkenberg sixth in the driver standings.

"All in all, this is a good weekend as we come back from Monaco with a win and two podiums," team boss Frederic Vasseur reflected, "We've lost several opportunities recently, so we can savour the success this time. It will allow ART Grand Prix to maintain and reinforce its momentum of great results.

"Nico was right there with very good pace and looked really impressive for a rookie. Without one or two mishaps, he would have been the only driver to climb onto the podium twice in Monaco. Pastor, meanwhile, did not really find the best of pace in qualifying and his race strategy did not work as he came out of the pit-lane behind a driver who was incredibly slow, but he drove in a cold-blooded way and was fortunate on Friday before being the usual perfect winner Pastor in Monaco the day after."

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