At Long Last
It has been 132 races, 8 years, and countless weekends of bad luck, incompetence, errors and changing managements for one of Formula One’s most famous and much-admired teams.
Gone are the glory days of Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Ralf Schumacher and JP Montoya, but somehow, against most odds at Barcelona last weekend, 300-1 outsider Pastor Maldonado became the first Venezuelan ever to win an F1 Grand Prix race. Historically, this is a massive achievement, within a month of Chairman Frank Williams’ 70th Birthday- and has once again thrown open the debate to one of the most open starts to a season ever.
Williams’ considerable faith in this young 27-year old driver has paid off, after a shattering debut 2011 season- where he could only manage a single point, and finished 19th in the standings.
Williams on fire!
A former GP2 winner, Maldonado shocked the world and surprised himself, by qualifying 2nd behind Lewis Hamilton- who was promptly demoted to the back of the grid for breaking the fuel rule. Maldonado then went on to make the most of his pole start, hanging in behind Alonso for most part of the first 25 laps- until a successful pitstop saw him take the lead, after Ferrari failed to get Alonso out back in time. That was it for the Williams driver, as he drove the wheels off his car just to keep the two-time World Champion at bay, and though Alonso had his chances towards the end of the race, some great close-outs by Maldonado sealed the deal for a jubilant Williams outfit. In fact, it was Alonso who was struggling by the end of it, with Raikkonen less than a second behind him at the checkered flag. This will frustrate the Spaniard to no end, because this is not the first time he has failed to take the lead despite being the more experienced, favored driver with a faster car.
For the first time since 1983, and the second time overall, there have been five different winners of the first five races- demonstrating the sudden spurt of competitiveness in 2012, a season that has six former World Champions battling for the title.
Former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, back in the saddle after a couple of years, is enjoying his stint with a surprisingly competent Lotus Renault team, with partner Romain Grosjean. Yet to win a race, he has two podiums over the last few races- which puts him within striking distance of Alonso and Vettel at the top. Button is yet to come to the fore, after yet another disappointing McLaren effort- that saw an inspired Hamilton use a two-stop strategy to the fullest, and end in 9th.
Fans couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season, after a one-sided 2011 saw young Vettel stamp his dominance over a star-studded field time and again. A winner of just one race this year (Bahrain), Vettel, though barely leading the championship, is struggling to find the pace in his Red Bull- and is aware of the fact that he may just be one of mortals this season.
Spaniard on top
Surprisingly, the only consistently improving car over the season has been the Lotus, with McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull yet to find their bearings.
For now, though, all one can do is raise a toast to the surprise packages of this month- Williams- who will be desperate to build upon this solitary win with a few more podium finishes this year.
After a week that saw Cricket produce one close finish after another in the IPL, football take the cake with the closest EPL finish in history, Men and Women’s Tennis return back to its greatest players, it is now over to Motor Racing.
Formula One, your move.