Maldonado win big for Williams

May, 16, 2012
05/16/12
2:53
PM ET

A year ago, the famed Williams squad was enduring a downright embarrassing season, one which yielded no points through the first five events on the F1 calendar.

It was a nearly unimaginable start for a team that had accomplished so much in the sport, and the remainder of the season was not much kinder.

In the end, the team under Cosworth power collected just five more points than Lotus, HRT and Virgin.

What a difference a few months can make. This season has seen Williams return to competitive form, running mid-pack for much of the early season.

But Pastor Maldonado accomplished much more than that in Spain as he defended the lead from the likes of former world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Because of his incredible drive, Williams was on the top step for the first time since Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2004.

The 131 events between wins was by far the longest in the team's history, more than double the next-closest streak set between 1997 and 2001.

When this latest drought began at the start of 2005, Alonso had yet to win a world championship and Red Bull was in its maiden season.

For a team with such a pedigree, it was a drought that shocked the sport, yet the end of that run in Spain was arguably even more surprising.

In his young career, Maldonado had never finished better than eighth and had just two finishes in the points entering Spain. His victory must certainly give hope to many others on the grid that perhaps their first F1 win isn't as distant as they once thought, and with so much of the season still to come, it is difficult to imagine what surprises could possibly remain.

The nation of Venezuela certainly had reason to celebrate as well, considering it was the first victory and podium for a driver from the country in Formula One.

In addition, this season now has multiple first-time winners before June, a feat that had not occurred since 2003 (Giancarlo Fisichella and Raikkonen).

Team principal Sir Frank Williams was certainly candid about Maldonado's hiring, but he was also quick to support his driver.

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Frank Williams
Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty ImagesWilliams team principal Frank Williams celebrates with teammates after Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado's win at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"Yeah, he was to some extent [initially with the team because of money]; I'm not denying that," Williams told Autosport. "But if we thought he'd been a wanker, he wouldn't have got in the team no matter how much money he had. He did a very sensible job in GP2 and he fully deserves to be in the team with or without the dosh.

"The truth is that if you haven't got the dosh, you can't go Formula One racing. But we've got a real racing driver as well. I am just astonished by the way he just controlled himself, and didn't make a mistake at all."

For Maldonado, that's undoubtedly high praise from one of the most respected individuals in the sport, and the concept of drivers paying for a seat may have just taken on a completely new form thanks to his victory.

Maldonado is now the seventh straight different driver to win an F1 event, a remarkable occurrence considering that between 2010 and 2011, only five different drivers won.

There is plenty of talent on the grid that could extend that streak even further, and with Monaco next on the schedule, there is hardly a larger stage for an upset.

But Spain could easily have played out differently had Lewis Hamilton not suffered misfortune yet again.

After a fuel error cost him his pole position, he was forced to fight through the field throughout the day to finish eighth, and one can only guess what the outcome would have been had he started from the front.

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