Maldonado takes stunning first victory in Barcelona

Pastor Maldonado has taken his debut victory in Formula 1, holding off a spirited Fernando Alonso throughout the day. Kimi Raikkonen had a late charge to finish 3rd, while Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had eventful recoveries. Here is what happened:

Alonso pushes past Maldonado at the start

Alonso pushes past Maldonado at the start

At the start, Alonso slipped ahead of Maldonado, while Nico Rosberg split the two Lotuses. Sergio Perez fell to the back with a puncture, while Lewis Hamilton began his recovery drive from 24th.

Felipe Massa had an impressive start, leaping up to 11th, while Charles Pic spun and fell to 23rd.

Alonso begun to eke out a gap between him and the Williams, but soon reported that his front and right left tyres were beginning to degrade. This fear was confirmed on lap 7, when Mark Webber was the first to make a pit stop. A switch to the harder tyre confirmed that the Red Bull was opting for longer stints.

His teammate Vettel did a similar move a lap later. A flurry of cars, including most of the frontrunners, chose to follow this strategy, all stopping on lap 10.

Schumacher harpoons Senna, and both cars are out

Schumacher harpoons Senna, and both cars are out

Hamilton did not stop, and was momentarily up to 4th until the order calmed down. His strategy nearly paid off massively – a safety car was almost called on an incident at turn 1 between Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher. Defending into the first corner, Senna braked earlier on old tyres, and the Mercedes slammed into the Brazilian, taking both cars out on the spot.

Lewis pitted on lap 15, but another near miss at his pit stop caused a few fears in the garage. As he exited the pits, the McLaren hit off the older tyre, and Hamilton was delayed by several seconds.

Mark Webber had another early stop – this time for a front wing change. He dropped down to 17th place, while Hamilton recovered up to 12th. His next challenge was a familiar one, the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. They tussled for a few laps, before both Massa and Sebastian Vettel were handed drive-through penalties for ignoring yellow flags.

Vergne and Ricciardo tussle, and will soon be passed by Hamilton

Vergne and Ricciardo tussle, and will soon be passed by Hamilton

Maldonado’s second stop came several laps before Alonso’s, and it paid off. The Williams inherited the lead at the second set of stops, holding a 6 second lead over the Ferrari.

The battle for 6th began to materialise, with Nico Rosberg holding up Jenson Button, and Kamui Kobayashi keeping his distance. After several failed moves by Button, Kobayashi lost patience, and dived down the inside of Jenson, and took Rosberg’s position a lap later.

Hamilton’s comeback soon began to slow down, but by no means was over. Approaching the two Toro Rossos, Lewis sweeped around both rookies in several corners, and was up to 10th.

Maldonado pitted for the 3rd time, but disaster struck. A slow wheel change reduced his lead to 3 seconds, and soon he came under fierce pressure from Alonso. Back in 3rd, Kimi Raikkonen held back until the final 10 laps, then began blasting away the 15 second gap – by over a second a lap.

Back in 8th, Sebastian Vettel put a brave move on Jenson Button, outbraking the McLaren on the back straight. Within a few laps, he had caught up to Hamilton, and used DRS to sail past. Another lap later, Rosberg was passed at Campsa corner, leaving the Red Bull back up to 6th.

Maldonado is crowned a race winner

Maldonado is crowned a race winner

Raikkonen’s charge fell just short, leaving Pastor Maldonado clear to take his first ever victory in Formula 1, and the first for Williams since 2004.

Fernando Alonso held off Kimi by 0.6 seconds, with teammate Grosjean in 4th. Kamui Kobayashi was an excellent 5th, and Sebastian Vettel remains on top of the driver’s championship with his 6th place. Nico Rosberg was 7th, the McLarens 8th and 9th, and Nico Hulkenberg 10th.

It was an incredible drive from the Venezuelan, who withstood massive pressure throughout the race, and continued on despite a few scares. Alonso and Raikkonen did well, but today truly belongs to Pastor Maldonado.

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