14 May


CATALUNYA never disappoints the F1 fan, and it each race throws up surprises, and there was no shortage of them earlier today!

More often than not the world champion has won at Catalunya since it joined the calendar in 1991, and today Williams’ Pastor Maldonado joined the list of race winners by cruising to victory in one of the most enthralling races seen in a long time. The young Venezuelan broke history by being the first ever driver from his country to stand on the top of the podium. This could potentially herald a return to fame that Williams once dominated in previous decades- legends such as Prost, Senna and Damon Hill to name but a few. Sir Frank Williams could not have been more enjoyed as he officially celebrated his seventieth birthday over the weekend with many drivers past and present; and it has definitely marked a U- Turn in Williams fame that had been so badly damaged by last year’s poor performance. However, all thoughts must now turn to their mechanics, four of whom have suffered injuries following a fire in their garage following the race- it has been speculated that a KERS System caused a spark that ignited the inflammable fuel close to one of the vehicles. Mechanics from neighbouring garages were also injured but have since been released or undergoing non- urgent treatment at local hospitals, or the circuit medical centre.
Away from the paddock, it was a controversial weekend. Debate is rife about whether Lewis Hamilton deserved his grid penalty for breeching the fuel regulations- he would have failed to provide the litre necessary for examination if he had continued his in lap on Saturday- but with professional conduct and honesty, he managed an honourable eighth place after racing up the field by sixteen places; the only bittersweet moments being a slow pit stop (déjà vu….) caused this time by a tyre being left in the way! The other moment came towards the end, when the tyres had reached their “cliff” and he lost allowing him to be overtaken by the current world champion Sebastian Vettel, who gained two places to finish sixth. Team mate Webber, however, never really fought off the mid-field well enough to enter the points, finishing a meagre eleventh place.

The home fans in Spain had nothing to bore them as Fernando Alonso swapped the lead with Maldonado throughout, and a thrilling chase ensued in the closing stages of the race, before Maldonado seemed to unleash the hidden power in his tyres to hold off the Spaniard- nevertheless, second is no mean achievement for Alonso, either.

Lotus continued their consistent improvement with drivers Kimi “Ice Man” Raikkönen and Romain Grosjean completing the top four- will this trend continue? The resurgence of the smaller teams has proven exciting over the last five races, and with five different drivers from five different teams winning over the five races, it is anyone’s game as we enter into the sixth race in a fortnight.

However, the same couldn’t be said for Maldonado’s team-mate Bruno Senna- regrettably an exciting (to the viewers…) collision with Michael Schumacher ended their Spanish dreams for another year- debris was sent flying across the pit straight as both cars ended up in the gravel and out for good. The Stewards have since blamed Schumacher for the incident giving him a 5 place grid penalty, it does not take an F1 driver to know not to career into the back of the car in front! Vettel and Felipe Massa were given drive thrus for not slowing for a yellow flag.

Sauber’s fortunes were rather mixed- Kamui Kobayashi’s race ended in an impressive fifth place- tyres were once again critical, and the Japanese driver is becoming increasingly skilled at handling his rubber well; fellow driver Sergio Perez after a tyre was not attached properly in the pit stop.

Nico Rosberg came seventh, Jenson Button ninth and Nico Hulkenburg fought off Webber’s Red Bull for many laps and succeeded, taking home the final point.

Amidst the controversy of fuel, today’s race was as thrilling as ever, and many congratulations go to Pastor Maldonado and to all the Williams F1 team – who received their first race victory since Brazil 2004 – not forgetting Sir Frank himself. Catalunya never fails to offer thrills, great driving and on occasion the odd crash or two, and all eyes are now pinned on the affluence, glitz, glamour and beauty of Monaco as in a fortnight’s time, the F1 world will dominate the tightly winding streets in what always proves to be another exciting race, whether you are the F1 petrol head, or casual watcher, don’t miss a single second of the Monegasque excitement- though it will be hard to top this weekend, however.

Alonso and Vettel now lead the World Championship, with 61 points each, ahead of Lewis Hamilton with 53 points; Red Bull retain first place in the Constructors championships with eleven points clear of McLaren with 109 points.

During the fire incident  victor Pastor braved the flames and managed to carry his cousin out of the garage to safety (the trophy was also saved) and after twenty minutes, the fire was controlled and extinguished but four Williams mechanics, four Caterham mechanics and one Force India mechanic were treated for injuries, none of them serious.

Finally, I would like to offer a speedy recovery to all those affected by the blaze at the paddock this weekend- it is not just the drivers, but the entire team personnel, that make F1 so enjoyable.


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