Lewis Hamilton and McLaren Mercedes Benz not only gifted Williams F1 and Pastor Maldonado not just pole position but also race victory. After what seems and is ages, the Williams F1 team returns to winning ways with its old consort Renault but a new arch angel who goes by the name of Pastor Maldonado. After a disastrous 2011 and some hard re-organising decisions, 2012 has looked good for Williams and it is to its credit that the team and Maldonado won not because of any exceptional circumstances but purely on merit and good race pace. The last driver to win a race for Williams F1 was Columbian Juan Pablo Montoya when Williams was running on BMW power and this was in the year 2004. Maldonado’s teammate Bruno Senna rounded off his bad qualifying effort by not finishing the race, having been punted out by Michael Schumacher.
The year 2012 is also the first since 1983 when 5 different drivers belonging to 5 different teams have won the first five races of the year. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and now Pastor Maldonado have won the first five GPs at Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain for McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari, Mercedes AMG, Red Bull Racing Renault and Williams Renault respectively. The experience of Alonso was not of much use in his battle of wits with the relatively inexperienced Maldonado. It was actually Alonso who won the race to the first corner and the lead of the race from the standing start. But it was a better pit strategy and near flawless driving by Maldonado that ensured that Maldonado leap frogged Alonso after the first round of pit stops and stayed there till the end. About 14 laps from the end, Alonso did mount an attack on Maldonado by closing to less than half a second of the Venezuelan driver but the latter held his nerve and the lead to gradually pull away from the Ferrari of Alonso who can take solace from the fact that they seem to seeing a resurgence of sorts in their own form.
It remains to be seen if the resurgence is genuine since Barcelona is Alonso’s home race and he could have been propelled to the front in qualifying and in the race by adrenaline and the support of home fans. The next couple of races should tell the real story. Whatever the reason maybe the result has ensured that Alonso and Ferrari remain in the hunt for the world title for 2012. The other Ferrari of Felipe Massa continued to show the driver’s ragged form and his inability to replicate the kind of performances that Alonso has been coming up with even in a grossly under performing car. Today was no different with Massa confined to midfield scraps and remaining out of the points and ultimately finishing in a lowly fifteenth position. As a team Ferrari should be concerned by Massa’s inability to pile in the points to be in a good position to fight for the constructors’ world championship.
Another driver who is having severe trouble finishing races in a car that has actually won a race this season is Michael Schumacher. A string of errors right from the beginning of the season have seen Schumacher looking anything but a winner at a time when his younger teammate actually won a GP and has been finishing in the points consistently. But the Mercedes AMG car has been battling tyre problems and those very problems ensured that Nico Rosberg could finish no higher than seventh, but crucially Rosberg was able to fend off the advances of a hard charging Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren that started right at the back of the grid. Hamilton could perhaps have performed better if it was not for shoddy work in the pits that delayed the driver sufficiently from fighting for higher positions in the race which he seemed capable of, especially considering that at one time he had reached as high as fourth position. His teammate Jenson Button had a lacklustre qualifying that was further accentuated by an equally lacklustre race. Button may however draw solace from the fact that he actually finished in the points in 9th position just behind his teammate Hamilton who finished in eighth. The final point scoring position of 10th went to Nico Hulkenberg in the Sahara Force India car even though his performance and that of the team was hardly anything to talk about.
The Lotus Renault team must be wondering what it must do to win a race. It once again flattered to deceive. Kimi Raikonnen and Romain Grosjean were both in good positions especially the former to win the race. However he could do little to stop Maldonado and Alonso from racing away into the distance and a peculiar tyre and pit stop strategy ensured that third was the best that he could finish. His teammate Romain Grosjean yet again drove a little raggedly in the beginning but consolidated to finish fourth behind his teammate. Sauber Ferrari has been another team that has been sparkling every now and then this season and this time around it was the turn of Kamui Kobayashi to take the team to fifth position on pure race pace. Kobayashi drove his now famous kamikaze laps and overtook several drivers including defending world champion Sebastian Vettel enroute to his fifth place.
Sebastian Vettel managed to finish in sixth place despite having to undergo a drive through penalty for not slowing down sufficiently when yellow flags were being waved. He also had to change his nose cone and front wing owing perhaps to some problem with the aerodynamic settings since much before him his teammate Mark Webber in the other Red Bull Racing car had pitted to have the front of the car changed. It is clear that Red Bull has lost the advantage that it had last year where it dominated qualifying and the races. The exhaust blown diffuser ban seems to have hurt RBR the most. Webber despite trying his best to get ahead of the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg could only finish behind that car in eleventh place and outside the points. The racing maybe artificial thanks to the unpredictable Pirelli tyres and the DRS wing but all in all it is proving to be quite enthralling with different winners from different teams. Kimi Raikonnen would be fancying his chances for the next race in another team that has been resurgent this year.