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GP Week : Issue 153
Fernando Alonso found half a second in the much-improved Ferrari but did so from a slower Q2 time. He lapped in 1min 22.302sec on his single run. The Lotus-Renaults found two or three tenths – but, again, they had been over half-a- second slower than Pastor in Q2. It was left, then, to Lewis Hamilton. Lewis alone of the Q3 runners set out for a second run, on a second set of new Pirelli softs. He took the pole with a lap in 1min 21.707sec (exactly the lap, co-incidentally, that Seb Vettel drove to be P1 in FP3 in 2011!). He was a full half- second quicker than Pastor. He was the only driver under 1min 22.sec . McLaren celebrated. It was their 150th pole! A new ‘McLaren 150’ Wallpaper was quickly emailed to fans worldwide. And then the news broke: Lewis’s times would be deleted. He would start from the back of the grid. Pastor Maldonado was the new pole-man for the Spanish GP. (Due to human error, McLaren put insufficient fuel into Lewis’ car prior to Q3. Had they given Lewis just one run, all would have been fine. Lewis was slow on that first Q3 lap, however – his time was good enough only for P6 – and so McLaren took a gamble to give him an extra, final, lap. He was instructed by the team to stop the car half-way round his slow- down lap and thus to save the last of the fuel for the parc ferme fuel check. Even so, the Stewards (correctly, in my view) ruled that Lewis stopping due to a fuel shortage did not constitute ‘force majeur’ – as something like a blown tyre or an hydraulic failure would have done, for example. As he would have been P6 on his first Q3 lap, a ten-place penalty was deemed insufficient; he was therefore moved to the back of the grid. Pastor stepped quietly into the race; you can do that when you don’t play the F1 after-hours game, when you stay quiet and say little. He stepped into the FW34 as if this was just another GP2 race, not a Spanish GP for him to win. And nor did he panic when he was slightly slow away from the line and had to give best – despite some nice, late braking – into Turn 1. He ran around the outside of Fernando a little, just to let him know he was there – and then he let Fernando get away for the run into Turns Three and Four. Behind, Kimi Raikkonen was already a car’s length or so in arrears. Pastor kept the gap nice and solid. Never over 1.5 sec. Keep it straight and neat, never mind the angles etched by Fernando. And then see what happens to the tyres. Then, suddenly, as early as lap 10, Fernando stopped for the first of his used sets of Pirelli primes. Like Ferrari, Williams were planning to run a hard- hard-hard three-stop strategy (Lotus ran softs in the second stint). Deciding that their race would be against Alonso, Williams then brought Pastor in on lap 11. Unlike Fernando, though, who had used Pirelli primes in Q1, Pastor had three new sets at his disposal. He used his advantage to perfection. Again Pastor tracked the Ferrari; again we had a blue-and-white Williams- Renault up where we usually see the Red Bulls, McLarens and Mercedes. Slower cars punctuated the flow; quickly, though, Pastor would regain the lost ground. He was just over a second behind the Ferrari, on lap 23, when Williams tried the undercut. They brought Pastor in for his second new set of primes. It was aggressive strategy, courtesy of Andrew Murdoch and Mark Barnett. Fernando found bad traffic (Charles Pic in the Marussia) and a yellow flag. He lost time – perhaps a second; when he emerged from the pit lane, Pastor was braking and turning-in to Turn 1. Now there were new pressures, new dynamics. Could Pastor balance the variables? Did he have the inner strength? He could – and he did more than Fernando had done in reverse: he pulled out a lead – four, five seconds. It was enough to enable him to play with margin as he found traffic. It was enough to give him scope to conser ve the tyres. It could be enough to make up for any last- minute pit stop glitches.... Again Pastor stopped first – on lap 41. The Williams pit-work had been faultless until now. Just when they least needed it, though, a left-rear wheel nut jammed. Dickie Stanford, Team Manager, and Carl Gaden, Chief Mechanic, remained cool and solid. Get it right. Wait for the guns to clear. OK! Go! Two seconds had been lost.... Fernando changed to his last set of primes on lap 44. It was a super-slick Ferrari stop. And so they began their final battle, Pastor still ahead of Fernando, but now only by the margin of a second or so. In the Williams garage, Sir Frank, together with Lady Virginia (looking great), and Claire and Jonathan (all there to help their Dad celebrate his relatively recent 70th birthday) prepared for the final, decisive moments.... Dickie Stanford was up there on the podium, representing Williams as they played the British National Anthem, and the driver in the centre, still calm and seemingly still fresh, was flanked by two of F1’s greats. Such was the stature of the win by Pastor Maldonado. For more of Windsor on F1 watch The Flying Lap live every week on http://smibs.tv F1 >>> SPAIN 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: HE STEPPED INTO THE FW43 AS IF THIS WAS JUST ANOTHER GP2 RACE ... " "