Maldonado wins Spanish Grand Prix

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Associated Press
Monday, May 14, 2012
— Pastor Maldonado held off Fernando Alonso to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, giving Williams its first Formula One victory in eight years. The celebration quickly gave way to concern when a fire in the team garage left 31 people injured.

Maldonado started from the pole and withstood the challenge by Alonso’s Ferrari to take the 66-lap race at the Catalunya Circuit by 3.1 seconds.

Maldonado, making his first visit to the podium, is the first Venezuelan winner in F1. This was Williams’ 114th triumph but first since the 2004 Brazilian GP.

“It’s a wonderful day for me and the team. An unforgettable race,” said Maldonado, who was hoisted onto the shoulders of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen before being doused in champagne. “It was a tough race, with the strategy and a couple of laps we were struggling. But the car was so competitive from the first lap.”

Maldonado’s victory provided a flourish for Frank Williams as the team celebrated its longtime team principal’s 70th birthday this weekend. Williams’ celebration speech, however, was cut short. He was led from the garage when the fire broke out.

Governing body FIA said 31 people were treated by Catalunya Circuit medical staff, with seven of those flown out to a variety of hospitals to receive treatment.

Catalonia’s regional government said in a statement that one person was airlifted to a Barcelona hospital with serious burn wounds, while the rest were being treated locally for smoke inhalation. Williams confirmed a fuel leak caused the problem, with four of its staff treated for injuries. Three of those remained in the hospital.

The Caterham team said four of its members were among those injured as the fire spread to neighboring team boxes.

Raikkonen made up nearly 20 seconds over the final stretch to finish 3.8 seconds behind Maldonado in third, ahead of Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean. Lewis Hamilton, demoted from pole to last place in the 24-car field because of a rule breach, finished eighth for McLaren.

Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber was fifth, ahead of two-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton overcame a poor first stop when his crew failed to clear a tire quickly to stay in the points.

Maldonado’s third stop cost him valuable time. He returned to the track behind Raikkonen, who took the lead when Alonso stopped for the third and final time. But Maldonado passed Raikkonen on lap 47 to open a gap on Alonso, who passed the Finn one lap later to stay on Maldonado’s back.

Hamilton stayed third in the driver standings ahead of Raikkonen going into the Monaco GP on May 27.

Last updated: 8:35 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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