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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 5) - Williams winners // Taking a look back to the brief mid-season test and the surprises in Spain

Published by Christine Blachford

F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 5) - Williams winners audio waveform
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Hello, welcome, you’re listening to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, thank you for tuning in! We’re zipping through the 2012 season in bitesize chunks, picking out the key moments, the highs and lows and everything in between. We’re already on to the fifth show, so let’s get right on with it, Day Five - Williams winners.

From the heat of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Formula One moved on to a mid-season test in Mugello. This was a return of in-season testing, after the practice had been banned in an attempt to save money. After three days at the Mugello circuit, in which the reactions tended towards: “This track isn’t like anything we’re going to race on, what is the point” and “This track isn’t safe enough for testing on anyway” the FIA decided not to continue with mid-season testing and go back to the ban of 2011.

From one testing track to another, the teams moved on to the Spanish Grand Prix, held at Barcelona - the circuit all the teams know like the back of their hands from hours and hours of testing over the years. The races can sometimes be less than exciting but qualifying made us sit up and take notice. Throughout the first couple of sessions, Pastor Maldonado showed some impressive pace, finishing first and second. Of course, Q1 and Q2 is not when it matters, and it’s that final top ten shootout that decides pole position.

A fast lap from Pastor Maldonado and he crossed the line... second. Lewis Hamilton was faster than him by half a second, but he was instructed to pull the McLaren to a halt out on track due to a lack of fuel. The stewards did not take kindly to this, as the rules state the car needs to get back to the pitlane under its own power and have enough fuel leftover to provide a sample to be tested. Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying session and pushed to the back of the grid.

That meant Pastor Maldonado was promoted to pole position, starting the Spanish Grand Prix from the front row of the grid. This was a significant moment for Williams, showing how they really were turning things around from the 2011 season, where they finished the year ninth overall, picking up just five points with only three results in the top ten. Just six months on and they were starting the race from the front!

Well, one half of the Williams team was starting from the front. Poor Bruno Senna had made a mistake on his flying lap in qualifying, and simply ran out of time to try again, knocking him out in the first session. From 17th on the grid, he made it to lap 13 before Michael Schumacher crashed into the back of him - both of them retired from the race.

Meanwhile, at the front, Maldonado had Fernando Alonso alongside him, and it was quite obvious that even if he could keep the lead off the line, it probably wouldn’t be long before the Ferrari got past. As it happens, Alonso was leading into the first corner with Maldonado slipping into second.

Hamilton made good progress from the rear of the field, despite a worrying moment when, during a pitstop, he bounced off one of the tyres that hadn’t been moved out of the way quick enough. No harm was done, and he fought his way up to eighth - a great rise through the field in its own right, and perhaps even more impressive for finishing ahead of teammate Jenson Button who had qualified tenth.

A good round of pitstops from the Williams team saw Pastor jump back in front of his Spanish rival, and although Alonso chased him to the line, it was Maldonado who took the chequered flag - a surprising but hard-fought victory for the driver and team alike. Kimi Räikkönen joined the pair on the podium, just beating teammate Romain Grosjean to the coveted third place. Sebastian Vettel finished the race sixth, keeping his lead in the championship standings, albeit with a joint score of 61 points with Alonso.

Unfortunately, the celebrations for Williams were short lived, as just over an hour after the race finished, a fire broke out in the team garage. Various personnel from other teams piled in to help extinguish the blaze, and many were involved with rescuing people from the smoke-filled garage. Thankfully there were no major injuries, although seven people did visit the hospital and the minor injury count reached thirty one. The fire served as a reminder of the camaraderie between teams in the sport, as others - particularly McLaren - offered to help Williams with equipment and whatever they needed to get back on their feet after the fire.

A day of vivid highs and lows for the Williams team, but ultimately one that showed their standing within the paddock and that they are, however gradually, on the way back up from their 2011 form.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. I hope you will join me again next time when we will peek behind another window to find what key moment of the season just gone will be revealed.

All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2012