Maldonado holds off Alonso for Spanish GP win
Barcelona: Pastor Maldonado held off Fernando Alonso to win the Spanish Grand Prix today and give Williams its first Formula One victory in eight years.
Maldonado, starting from pole position, held his nerve as he withstood the challenge of Ferrari`s Spanish driver to take the 66-lap race at the Catalunya Circuit by 3.1 seconds and give F1 its fifth different race winner of an unpredictable season.
Maldonado become the sport`s first Venezuelan winner, while Williams` 114th triumph was its first since the 2004 Brazilian GP.
"It`s a wonderful day for me and the team. An unforgettable race," said Maldonado, who was hoisted onto the shoulders of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen before being doused in champagne on his first visit to the podium.
"It was a tough race, with the strategy and a couple of laps we were struggling. But the car was so competitive from the first lap."
Raikkonen made up nearly 20 seconds over the final stretch to finish 3.8 seconds behind Maldonado in third, ahead of Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean.
Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber was fifth, ahead of two-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, who charged past Nico Rosberg`s Mercedes to take sixth and maintain a share of the overall F1 points lead. The Red Bull driver, who was given a drive-through penalty during the race, shares 61 points at the top of the driver standings with Alonso through five races. It is F1`s most varied start since 1983, when five different drivers also opened the season with victories.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was seventh and Lewis Hamilton, demoted from pole to last place in the 24-car field because of a rule breach, finished eighth for McLaren.
Hamilton finished ahead of teammate Jenson Button with Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.
Alonso provided home fans with a steely start as the two-time champion kept his inside line, under pressure from Maldonado. The Spaniard led around the first corner with Raikkonen moving ahead of Grosjean to sit third.
Hamilton, who set the fastest lap in yesterday`s qualifying but failed to retain enough fuel in his tank to get back into the pits, overcame a poor first stop when his crew failed to clear a tire quickly to stay in the points.
He moved as high as fifth after the second round of stops, when Maldonado took over the lead from Alonso, with Raikkonen still ahead of Grosjean.
Maldonado`s third stop was far from graceful as he lost valuable time, returning to the track behind Raikkonen, who took the lead when Alonso stopped for the third and final time.
But Maldonado passed Raikkonen on lap 47 to open up a gap on Alonso, who passed the Finn one lap later to stay on Maldonado`s back.
"It was a fantastic start. We took the momentum there and led the race for the first start but Williams anticipated (our pit) stop and got in front," said Alonso, who finished runner-up for the fourth time. "We tried a couple of times to get in front but it wasn`t possible."
The 27-year-old Maldonado drove with confidence down the final stretch despite Alonso, whose lone victory here was in 2006, bearing down on him.
"There was some moments where he was so close but I managed the gap," Maldonado said.
Michael Schumacher bowed out after running into the back of Bruno Senna`s Williams on lap 14, the German driver`s terrible season getting worse as he failed to finish for the third time while also knocking his Brazilian rival out of the race.
Hamilton stayed third in the driver standings ahead of Raikkonen going into the Monaco GP on May 27. (AP)