Pastor Maldonado grabbed an astonishing first Formula One victory yesterday in a Spanish Grand Prix thriller that handed former champions Williams their first triumph in 132 races and nearly eight years.
The first Venezuelan driver to stand on the F1 podium, let alone win, Maldonado became the fifth different winner this season in five races won by five different teams — a phenomenon only ever seen before in 1983.
A 300-1 outsider before the weekend, Maldonado delivered Williams’ first win since Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya in Brazil in October 2004.
“Very good job, guys,” was all he said over the radio as his teammates erupted in celebrations, but Maldonado made up for it on the podium as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen lifted him on their shoulders.
Then the champagne flowed.
The pole had fallen into his lap after Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid on Saturday because McLaren put too little fuel in his car for qualifying and the former GP2 champion grabbed his chance with both hands.
Spain’s double champion Alonso finished second, 3.1 seconds behind, to move level with Red Bull’s world champion Sebastian Vettel on points at the top of the drivers’ championship.
Finland’s 2007 champion Raikkonen was a disappointed third, taking the checkered flag 3.8 seconds behind Maldonado after just running out of laps in a spirited chase for a possible victory.
Vettel, who finished sixth, and Alonso each have 61 points, with Hamilton on 53.
It was the 114th win for Williams, nine time constructors’ champions, whose last title was in 1997 with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve.
It came the day after Formula One gave team founder and principal Frank Williams a belated 70th birthday party.
The Circuit de Catalunya, the most predictable on the calendar until the arrival of movable rear wings (DRS) and Pirelli tires, served up a cliffhanger.
Alonso seized the lead at the start to the delight of the home crowd, but that was just the opening salvo in a long afternoon full of thrills and overtaking.
While Hamilton showed off all his talents by carving his way through the field from last place on the grid to eighth, the battle at the front was on a knife-edge right to the very end.
With 10 laps to go there was less than a second between Maldonado and Alonso, while Raikkonen was taking huge chunks out of their lead lap by lap.
Maldonado’s teammate, Bruno Senna, was less fortunate than the Venezuelan victor, retiring on track after just 13 laps when Michael Schumacher ploughed his Mercedes into the back of the Williams in a shower of debris.
The seven time world champion, three years into his comeback, but still without a podium place, branded the Brazilian an “idiot” over the team radio, even though it looked like it was clearly his fault.
“You can see he moves right to defend his position in the braking phase, but then moves back left into me. I am very annoyed about that,” the 43-year-old said. “He was a back-marker and not a real contender for the points.”
Stewards were investigating the incident.