By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Sunday, May 13, 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton finished eighth in today’s 2012 Spanish Grand Prix as Pastor Maldonado took his first chequered flag.
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire started from the back of the grid at the Circuit de Catalunya.
However, he gained enough places to finish inside the points in Barcelona ahead of McLaren teammate Jenson Button.
Maldonado, who started from pole after Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying results, won the race for Williams Renault – becoming the fifth different driver to win a grand prix this year as a result.
Fernando Alonso took second place for Ferrari in his home race. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen was third for Lotus Renault ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean. Kamui Kobayashi was fifth for Sauber. Sebastian Vettel was sixth for Red Bull, with Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg seventh just ahead of Hamilton.
1) Pastor Maldonado (Williams)
2) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
3) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
4) Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
5) Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber)
6) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
7) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
8) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
9) Jenson Button (McLaren)
10) Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
Vettel and Alonso are now joint top of the FIA world drivers’ championship with 61 points each, with Hamilton next in the standings with 53 points after claiming four in Barcelona today.
After being stripped of pole position, Herts-born Hamilton vowed to race his heart out in the grand prix – and he did exactly that in the opening 10 laps.
The McLaren driver carved through the field with a succession of passing moves to climb from 24th to fourth, helped by staying out longer on his first set of tyres.
A great opening lap saw him gain four places from the back of the field. He continued to overtake cars and passed Heikki Kovalainen for 16th place.
1) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 61pts
2) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 61
3) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 53
4) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 49
5) Mark Webber (Red Bull) 48
6) Jenson Button (McLaren) 45
7) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 41
8) Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 35
9) Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 29
10) Sergio Perez (Sauber) 22
The McLaren pitwall told him over the radio: “Great job, Lewis. Eight overtakes so far, Daniel Ricciardo the car ahead.”
With the DRS enabled, Hamilton gained further ground in Spain.
The pitwall told Hamilton: “Some cars are pitting earlier than us. You’re up to eighth, you’re doing a cracking job!”
However, Hamilton’s first stop didn’t run smoothly, with the driver bumping over something as he exited the McLaren box and he came out back in 14th place.
When asked what happed in the pitlane, Hamilton was told: “We think you hit one of the other tyres. Everything is okay, carry on.
“You have the new prime tyre. Everything’s fine.”
After improving another two places, Hamilton found himself inside the DRS zone of Ferrari rival Felipe Massa, and tried an audacious, but unsuccessful, move on the outside at turn one.
The McLaren pitwall told Lewis: “You are currently P12. There’s everything to play for.
“We think all of the cars ahead of you will be three-stopping.”
With Massa being handed a drive-through penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags, Hamilton – on a two-stopper – moved into fifth place after 30 laps of the race.
Hamilton was told over the radio: “Massa has a drive-through penalty. He’ll be getting out of your way in the next few laps.
“We are effectively P5 at the moment. The car immediately behind – Vettel – has also got a drive-through.
“All cars behind us are slower than us. You’re doing a great job, we can make this work.”
However, Hamilton’s tyres started to drop off and he had to make his second stop earlier than expected.
He returned to the track in 14th place with 30 laps to go but soon passed Paul di Resta.
Hamilton said over the radio: “I’m saving tyres.”
The team’s reply was: “Excellent. That’s good to know.”
Despite that, Hamilton still took advantage of his fresh rubber to climb up into eighth place.
Hamilton asked: “What’s the situation behind? And how many laps?”
The reply was: “You could be racing Kobayashi at the pit exit. There are 25 more laps to go, Jenson is the car behind.”
The pitwall later added: “We are currently P7. There are 23 laps to go. This level of tyre saving is good.
“Car behind is Jenson. His tyres are only three laps newer than ours.”
With the two McLarens separated by less than two seconds, Hamilton was told: “Jenson is 1.3s behind. He’s just outside the DRS zone. We have 19 laps to go.”
Hamilton replied: “Let me know when Jenson has DRS.”
With 10 laps to go, Hamilton was told: “Jenson is just outside the DRS zone at the moment. He should not get it this time.”
Hamilton instead pulled two seconds clear of Button, who was then overtaken on the inside at turn 10 by Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.
He asked: “Let me know Vettel’s pace.”
The pitwall responded: “He’s about 0.5s faster than us. The cars ahead are beginning to slow.”
Hamilton fended off Vettel as best he could but the German eventually took seventh place through into turn one, with Lewis dropping to eighth.
With cars ahead struggling with tyre wear, McLaren told Hamilton: “The cars in front are coming back to us at one second per lap. Keep looking after your tyres.”
Hamilton closed in on Nico Rosberg in the final laps but was unable to take the Mercedes GP and had to settle for eighth place after starting 24th.
Just 0.2 seconds separated Rosberg and Hamilton at the flag.
The McLaren wall told Hamilton: “A shame we started at the back, we know that. But what a brilliant race, a great effort. You were the only car to make a two-stop work.”
Hamilton replied: “That was damage limitation. But much, much better in the pitstops. Well done, thank you.”
After five races Hamilton has still to taste victory. He’ll be looking to change that in a fortnight’s time in Monaco.