Saturday, May 12, 2012

Maldonado to Start on Spanish GP Pole After Hamilton's Exclusion

Photo Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

Taking three weeks off, the Formula 1 tour steps onto European soil for the first time in 2012. The 4.655-kilometer Circuit de Catalunya hosts the 5th race of the season after what has been a seemingly wacky start of the Formula 1 championship. In four grand prixs kicking off the 2012 Formula 1 schedule, the sport has four drivers with four different car constructors holding victories. Entering the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, the circuit has produced six different winners since 2006 without one driver repeating within that time. 

At the end of the Q3 session, Lewis Hamilton stood at the top of the Spanish Grand Prix grid posting the a blazingly fast time of 1 minute, 21.707 seconds. Nearly half a second faster than the second fastest Williams-Renault wheeled by Pastor Maldonado, Hamilton was prepared to take what was initially thought to be the McLaren-Mercedes driver's third pole position of 2012. However, due to Lewis Hamilton's race car running out of fuel on the Circuit de Catalunya, Formula 1 stewards penalized the pole-winning McLaren-Mercedes for both being unable to bring the car back to the pits and for not providing a fuel sample. Excluding Lewis Hamilton's qualifying times, the McLaren car will be starting at the back of the grid due to the fuel miscalculation. The Spanish Grand Prix makes the second time Hamilton has been demoted from his starting position after a 2012 qualifying session. With Hamilton starting in the back of the grid, the McLaren F1 team effort in qualifying is topped by an 11th fastest time of Jenson Button (However, he'll start 10th with his teammate's grid penalty).

With every qualified Formula 1 competitor gaining one position after the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton displacement from a pole start, Pastor Maldonado inherits the top spot to start Sunday's event. Set to be the Venezuelan's first time leading a Formula 1 field to the starting lights, the Williams F1 driver Maldonado has demonstrated growing optimism in the his sophomore season in the major open wheel racing series. "The car is very consistent and its race pace is good so I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow. There has been a really positive atmosphere in the team all season and this is a great result for them and Venezuela." said Pastor Maldonado. With Williams and Renault officially reunited this season after 11 seasons separated, Maldonado's presence at the front of the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix is the first time a Williams-Renault since Jacques Villeneuve's Jerez pole in 1997 that the engine and constructor will start first for a Formula 1 race.

Within two-hundredths of a second of Maldonado's Williams-Renault, Malaysian Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso will be starting on the front row with this Ferrari. In front of his home country, this is Alonso's highest grid position in 2012. The second Ferrari driven by Felipe Massa will start the Spanish Grand Prix in 16th spot after being the slowest in the Q2 time trial session.

Still charged with positiveness from there breakout performance at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Lotus F1 Racing pair of cars were among the top-5 fastest cars on the Circuit de Catalunya. The Lotus-Renault race cars will be promoted to full command of the second row of the grid for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix. In Q3, Romain Grosjean edged-out teammate and former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen by a small five-hundredths of a second gap.

Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

Starting fifth, the Sauber-Ferrari driven by Malaysian Grand Prix runner-up Sergio Perez dealt with a fast race car. "I want to do a perfect race and get the maximum possible points, or even come home with a nice surprise.” said Perez. Sauber F1 teammate Kamui Kobayashi encountered woes in after the Q2 session of qualifying when his C31 chassis reported a hydraulic problem. Kobayashi will start 8th in the Spanish Grand Prix.

For sixth through eighth place on the starting grid, the Mercedes GP cars have sandwiched the Red Bull-Renault of Sebastian Vettel. Nico Rosberg outpaces his 7-time Formula 1 world champion teammate Michael Schumacher.

Set for 2 pm local time under what is predicted to be wet, rainy conditions, the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix will take place at 8 am in the Eastern time zone.

2012 Formula 1
Spanish Grand Prix
Starting Line-up

1 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
2 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
3 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
4 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
5 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
6 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
7 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
8 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
9 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
10 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
11 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
12 11 Paul di Resta Force India
13 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
14 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
16 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
17 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
18 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
20 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
21 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth
2323 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth
24 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes

The #23 HRT-Cosworth of Narain Karthikeyan missed the 107 percent time in qualifying but has been allowed to start the Spanish Grand Prix.

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