Garage fire mars Pastor’s maiden title celebration

Pastor Maldonado held off Fernando Alonso to win the Spanish Grand Prix,though Williams’s first Formula One victory in eight years was marred by a major fire

Written by Associated Press | Barcelona | Published:May 14, 2012 1:26 am

Pastor Maldonado held off Fernando Alonso to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday,though Williams’s first Formula One victory in eight years was marred by a major fire that broke out in the team garage,injuring 16 people. Maldonado,starting from pole,held his nerve as he withstood the challenge of Ferrari’s Spanish driver to take the 66-lap race at the Catalunya Circuit by 3.1 seconds and give F1 its fifth different race winner of a so far unpredictable season.

Maldonado’s victory provided icing on the cake for Frank Williams as the team celebrated its longtime team principal’s 70th birthday over the weekend. Williams’s celebration speech after the win,however,was cut short when the fire broke out. One person was airlifted to hospital with severe burns while five more were treated at local hospital for smoke inhalation. Ten of the injured were treated for smoke inhalation at the track itself before being released. Caterham said four of its own team members were among those injured as the fire spread to neighboring team boxes.

Maldonado become the sport’s first Venezuelan winner,while Williams’s 114th triumph was its 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 on his first visit to the podium. “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.”

Raikkonen made up nearly 20 seconds over the final stretch to finish third,ahead of Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean. Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber was fifth,ahead of two-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel,who charged past Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes to maintain a share of the overall F1 points lead.

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