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GP Week : Issue 145
Having spent his first Formula One season dogged by accusations of being a pointless pay driver, Pastor Maldonado took the opportunity of the Australian Grand Prix to silence his critics with a commanding performance. And so he would have done, had the Williams driver’s race not been book- ended by two collisions. On the first lap, Maldonado took out Lotus driver Romain Grosjean at Turn 13 when he widened his line mid-way round the corner. Grosjean retired immediately, but Maldonado raced on. For the bulk of the race it looked as though the Venezuelan was on course to deliver Williams their best grand prix finish since Singapore 2010, when Rubens Barrichello crossed the line in P6. But on the final lap Maldonado crashed in clear air, ending his race and leading to chaos for the chasing pack in the final corners. While his beginning and his end might have been messy, the middle of Maldonado’s race demonstrated just why the Venezuelan took home the 2010 GP2 Series title. Given the opportunity to drive a competitive car for the first time in his F1 career, Maldonado demonstrated quick pace, consistent lap times, and clean defensive driving. The last lap crash came about, Maldonado said, because he was pushing too hard in an attempt to catch the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso before it crossed the finish line. Qualifying well might earn a driver no points in the championship, but that was of no matter to F1 returnee Romain Grosjean on Saturday night. The Lotus driver – last seen on the F1 grid in Abu Dhabi 2009 – delivered a blinding performance in qualifying that saw the E20 line up on the second row of Sunday’s grid, immediately behind the pace-setting McLarens. Lotus had looked strong throughout winter testing, and it was widely expected that both Grosjean and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – a fellow F1 returnee – would do Enstone proud with their performances at Albert Park. But it was not to be, thanks to a first-lap collision with Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan driver ran into Grosjean at Turn 13, with the Williams widening its line mid-way through the corner. As is often the case in racing, the Lotus suffered the indignity of retirement while his assailant emerged from the contact unscathed. What should have been a promising start to Grosjean’s rebooted F1 career ended in the gravel. “I think we could have achieved a great result today,” Grosjean said after the race. “It’s frustrating as I really wanted to make the chequered flag and even the podium, but on the positive side the car is performing very well. I was keeping pace with the guys in front of me and everything was looking good. “My start wasn’t great so we’ll need to have a look at the data,” he continued. “Then of course there was the collision with Pastor. From what I saw he braked far too late and hit my right front wheel which broke the steering and that was it; my race was over.” The stewards appeared to have determined that the collision was a standard racing incident, as no investigation was announced either before or after the race. MALDONADO: NOT BAD FOR A PAY DRIVER ... OH, NO, WAIT! ... WIN ON SATURDAY, RETIRE ON SUNDAY Grosjean’s return 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> AUSTRALIA