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GP Week : Issue 153
conjunction with his very precise brake pedal pressure reduction. Pastor has always been able to brake very, very late; since early 2011, though, he has been adding to his talent this ability to ‘shorten’ the corners. This is nothing to do with ‘line’ in the accepted sense of the word. This is to do with initiating the direction change before the substance of the corner without falling into the trap of excess steering wheel movement. Pastor, over the past 18 months, has become supple and compliant with his inputs, particularly at the end of the braking areas and on approach to the minimum- speed points. Fernando, il toreador, by contrast became more theatrical, more flamboyant, as the race ran out. Into Turn 3 he would give the steering a heave before balancing the Ferrari on throttle for the bulk of the corner. Into 4 – the long, long right, he would start wide, give the car a flick and run way out on the kerbs, thrilling the Turn 9 crowd who were suddenly about-faced in the grandstand there, watching Fernando’s every move. And then into Turn 5, with no chance to pass, Fernando still did what his heart demanded: he again softened the entry, arced down to a late apex and ran wide on the exit kerbs, punishing the tyres. Fernando could see the Williams always neat and tidy ahead of him, as if on rails. Ithadtobethecar;ithadtobethe Ferrari’s still-inherent shortcomings. Then, into Turn 9 – as they swiveled rapidly back towards the front of the grandstand – they’d see Pastor darting in to the fast, blind, right-hander, initiating a steering spike that made you think “pretty sharp”; then Fernando would do the same but much more so, taking you right back to the Renault days, when he would hurl the car like a dagger through melted butter. Then, and only then, having seen the two – zap, zap – one after the other, could you appreciate the quality of Pastor’s hand- and foot-movements – or the measure of Fernando’s sheer confidence in that famous car control – reflex delicacy that surely would prevail? Ten laps to go became seven, however. And seven, interrupted by a slower car or two, became five. Up in the grandstands, the thought began to dawn: providing Fernando’s Pirellis stayed the course, his best chance of winning would come not from Pastor’s inadequacies – for of those there seemed to be none – or from Fernando’s classy brilliance; it would come, instead, from intimidation – from Fernando simply being Fernando. In a Ferrari. Here. In Spain. The Pirellis didn’t hold up, however – and so intimidation began to fade. The primes absorbed those long corners for a while – took the excess load – but then finally they began to lose their edge. In the closing five laps, Fernando had to back away so as to ensure that even second place would be safe from a quickly-closing Kimi Raikkonen. Pastor had it. Pastor, using the tyres less for the same lap time, would win the Spanish Grand Prix. He would become the first Venezuelan ever to win a round of the FIA Formula OneWorld Championship. He would be the first Spanish-speaking South American to do so since Juan Pablo Montoya. The question remains: what was Pastor doing there in the first place? How did he take the lead of the Spanish GP? The answer lies in the fast-corner pace shown by the Williams FW34-Renault in the team’s first season test, at Jerez. Through Turn 5, early on that second day in February, Maldonado was up there with Michael Schumacher, even though Michael at that point was still running 2011 downforce on the Mercedes. And, since then, through a maze of slow- corner set-up issues, traffic incidents and one or two mechanical problems, Pastor and the FW34 have been poised, ready to leap. We saw glimpses of that in Melbourne; and, with Mark Gillan and the design/engineering team logically developing its slow-corner turn-in and traction, we had a car that was systematically leaving the mid-field behind it. Providing the drivers wrung the best from it. Providing they made no major mistakes. Bruno Senna – still a ‘spikier’ driver than Pastor by a noticeable margin – made a classic Barcelona error under pressure in qualifying for the Spanish GP: like Jenson Button (!), he braked too late for the hairpin at the end of the back straight. The result was harmless (beyond a ruined lap) but it left him with too much to do in too little time at the end of Q1. Had Pastor made a similar error – the sort of error to which his critics imagine he is prone – we would all have left Barcelona saying “the Williams again showed mid-field promise in the wake of Alonso’s win” . Maldonado, though, was also magnificent in practice and qualifying. He was mid-field on Friday afternoon but Valtteri Bottas – who we may yet see racing in 2012 – was a stunning P5 in the morning – right up there with the McLarens and Mercedes. Pastor was second-fastest in P3 on Saturday morning, beaten only by Sebastian Vettel. And, then, in qualifying, he was fast and calm, putting in the lap exactly when he needed to do so. He was fifth- quickest in Q1; in Q2 he was out of it on his first run – as a result of which his weekend gathered pace. Forced into a second run in the dying minutes, when guys like Mark Webber were being told by their teams to stay in the garage and Jenson Button was finding no grip in the McLaren, Pastor suddenly headed the times. The track had evolved like lighting. His 1min 22.105sec lap was clean, pure, and the fastest of the weekend to date. Then came Q3. Seb Vettel and Michael Schumacher decided to save Pirellis and thus not to run; Pastor was given just one attempt. It was almost a replica of that Q2 lap – almost, but not quite, for Pastor, with no second chance, needed to leave the tiniest of margins whilst relying on those baseline Q2 manipulations. He obliged with a 1min 22.285sec. 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SPAIN