Tyre strategy played a key role in the Spanish Grand Prix, which was won by Williams driver Pastor Maldonado: the first win for the British team since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Venezuelan became the fifth different winner in five races this year, with five different cars.
Maldonado qualified on pole, but was passed by Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who made his first pit stop on lap 11. The biggest winner from the first stint was McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who went from last to fourth before switching to the hard tyres on lap 14.
With cooler conditions of 23 degrees centigrade ambient and 32 degrees track temperature, the working range of the P Zero Silver hard tyre came into its own, making it the favoured option for most teams to race on. The other nominated tyre, the P Zero Yellow soft, offered a significant performance advantage, and was used mainly for qualifying and the beginning of the race, with every driver starting on the soft tyre.
The key to Maldonado's victory was when he made his second stop two laps sooner than Alonso for the hard tyre, which enabled him to put in some quick laps and get past the Ferrari which pitted for the second time on lap 26. From then on, he was able to control his advantage with a three-stop strategy, which was also adopted by Alonso. After his final stop, Maldonado ran the P Zero Silver tyre for 25 laps to take victory by 3.1 seconds as he and Alonso raced to the finish on the hard tyre. Both drivers started on the soft tyre, and then used three sets of the hard tyre.
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, who finished third, also made good use of the hard tyre during his final 18-lap stint to close up on the leaders over the last 10 laps, having made three stops. By the end of the race, he was less than a second behind Alonso. Raikkonen used a different strategy to the two drivers in front of him, using the soft tyre twice at the beginning of the race and then completing two stints on the hard tyre.
By contrast, Hamilton was the only person to use a two-stop strategy to finish eighth - a result that was decided on the final lap - from 24th and last on the grid, after his original pole position time was cancelled for a rules infringement.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel finished sixth after four pit stops, including one drive-through penalty, and retains the championship lead jointly with Alonso. This is the closest start to a season since 1983 - which was also the last time a Venezuelan scored world championship points, thanks to Johnny Cecotto. Maldonado now becomes Venezuela's first grand prix winner.
Paul Hembery: "With Pastor Maldonado starting from the front and Lewis Hamilton starting from the back, this was always going to be a fascinating race, and thanks to the tyre strategy as well, it certainly delivered. Maldonado and Williams were quick right from free practice on Friday, having consistently got the most out of both tyre compounds all weekend. The final 10 laps were a fantastic duel between him and Alonso, with less than a second separating them, on similar strategies. Both drivers showed their tyre management skills perfectly, managing to avoid falling off 'the cliff' despite pushing hard for the race win. The tyres contributed to an extremely entertaining and tense race, but as official supplier we will always follow the wishes of the teams and the promoter and our future development direction will be dictated by what they want. For the sport, we believe that it's fantastic to have five races, five winners and five cars - especially when it is as well deserved as the victory that we saw from Pastor and Williams today."
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