Spanish GP 2012: Gary Anderson on Maldonado's mature victory

By Gary AndersonBBC F1 technical analyst

The fire in the Williams pit took some of the shine off an excellent maiden victory by their driver Pastor Maldonado in the Spanish Grand Prix.

The fire was a big shock to everyone in Formula 1. It was an unusual situation, but it's not that surprising it should happen when you think about it.

There is a lot of fuel stored in the garages - there could be 20 or 30 litres of fuel in the rig after the race and another couple of hundred in the garage in various cans and drums.

I don't yet know what set it off but it would, for example, only take a small leak and a bit of static electricity to spark a fire.

Fire breaks out in the Williams garage
The fire began at the back of the Williams garage

It was a sad end to the day, because an awful lot of stuff will have been damaged. It was a big fire, and it blew up very quickly. Fortunately there were no serious injuries.

Fuel safety was always taken very seriously when refuelling was allowed in F1 between 1994 and 2009, because that was obviously a potential disaster.

But the fuel rigs are still there and still hold the same amount of fuel. I think fuel safety probably needs to be looked at a bit more closely now this has happened.

It definitely dampens some of the joy at Williams following the victory - their first since the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of 2004.

The key point in the race was around the second pit stops. Maldonado had been jumped by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso at the start, and the Spaniard kept his lead through the first pit stops.

Williams came in first at the second round of stops, and Ferrari surprisingly left Alonso out for two laps, rather than bring him in next time around.

It's easy to say that cost them the lead, but Maldonado's pace was very strong on his out lap and Alonso encountered Marussia's Charles Pic halfway around the first of those two laps.

He spent the best part of two laps behind Pic, but even if he had stopped at the end of the first one, Maldonado may well still have made it into the lead.

Maldonado did something very few in the pit lane expected him to - he showed immense maturity from beginning to end.

Alonso came back at him towards the end of the race, but the current Pirelli tyres go off more rapidly as soon as you get close behind someone. The car loses about 20% of its downforce and that uses up the tyres more than running in clear air.

If you're going to pass someone, you've got to do it straight away - and that didn't happen.

Alonso probably should have dropped back a couple of seconds, saved his tyres and had another go towards the end when Maldonado's tyres were older - Alonso's were three laps fresher.

Despite that, it is incredible Alonso is tied on points with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel at the head of the championship, considering the car with which Ferrari started the season.


Ferrari brought lots of new parts to the Spanish Grand Prix - including a new floor, revised rear bodywork and exhaust position and new front and rear wings - and it has obviously made a difference.

Alonso qualified third - which became second on the grid after Lewis Hamilton's penalty - and it's not easy to get up there.

He was 0.6 seconds off Hamilton's pole time, and in the first four races of the year the Ferrari was more like 0.9secs off pole.

So it looks like they have made enough of a step to make getting into the top 10 a bit more comfortable.

But it's difficult to be sure whether that is all down to the new parts.

I'm sure there is a better lap-time in Alonso in Spain than in some other places. He's also exceptional around Monaco, the next race.

Confusing the picture, team-mate Felipe Massa was even further behind Alonso than usual, although he did have the excuse of traffic in qualifying.

So it may be Canada - where Ferrari are expected to bring some more new parts - before a definitive judgement on their progress can be made. Alonso and team boss Stefano Domenicali were saying something similar after the race.

The modifications to the car are all sensible, but Ferrari do need to go again. There are two main areas that still need work.

The big change for Barcelona was the rear of the sidepods, which are now much more tightly waisted than they were.

That is definitely a step in the right direction - but they can go much further and get even more gains there by waisting the back of the car in even more and moving the radiator exits somewhere where they hamper the aerodynamics less, perhaps out of the back of the engine cover.

The other area is the front wing, particularly the endplate, which they are not using aggressively enough to turn the air off the front wing around the front wheels.

Ferrari definitely have an aerodynamic deficit there, and I don't know why they are not going much further with the endplates in the manner of the other front-running teams. It suggests something is going wrong with their aerodynamic modelling and simulation.

I have been really impressed by Alonso's attitude this year. It's very easy for drivers to get depressed in the situation he finds himself in.

But he's making a lot of sense when he talks - and he knows where the problems are with the car and what they should do to solve them.

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