Pastor 'has stuff of champions'

2012-05-15 07:03

BARCELONA, Spain - Pastor Maldonado's first Formula 1 win, in Spain, showed that the Venezuelan has what it takes to be a champion.

That's according to Frank Williams, the 70-year-old Williams team boss and founder who's seen a string of champions drive his winning cars - among them Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senn.

The win was no fluke for the 27-year-old, he asserted. "Undoubtedly!" Williams said when asked whether Maldonado had the material to one day be a champion as well as a winner. "I'll tell you why - because he's very quick and he makes no mistakes."


That's not been entirely true in this most unpredictable of seasons with five different drivers from five separate teams winning the five races to date, even if his speed has undoubtedly been there. Maldonado, a very fast but occasionally wild champion in the GP2 feeder series, has at times pushed too hard and crashed when points have been there for the taking; but he's also impressed with his pace.

He was under-rated and dismissed by some as just another "pay driver", one signed up to attract much-needed sponsorship from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. Maldonado showed he is much more than that: as he said after the race, when asked about the title: "Anything's possible."

Before Sunday's 2012 Spanish F1 GP he would have been laughed at. The pre-qualifying odds of 300-1 on him winning in Spain, reduced from an even more generous 500-1, emphasised that this was a prospect too unbelievable to contemplate.

British bookmaker William Hill said it had taken two 10 pound (about R26) bets at 500-1 and hundreds of smaller wagers.


Williams, however, said his driver's potential "could be very considerable indeed". "We've a real racing driver as well. I am just astonished by the way he just controlled himself, didn't make a mistake at all."

Sunday's victory ended nearly eight years of waiting for the once-dominant, once-champion F1 team whose last most recent previous win came with another South American, Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, in Brazil in 2004.

2011 was Williams's worst F1 season since the 1970's - only five points for the year - and it had been four years since the team that won nine Constructors' and seven Drivers' titles had appeared on the podium.

It has, however, made a raft of changes and hauled itself back into mid-table respectability.

Renault, which also powers World champion team Red Bull and high-flying Lotus, has come in as the engine supplier instead of Cosworth and there have been key changes in the technical department.

"Last year we just weren't technically up to speed," Frank Williams said. "We had reasonable finance, enough money, but things didn't come together properly and we made mistakes. With a bit of restructuring... several key people were recruited and they have made a significant difference."


The big question now is whether momentum can be maintained. While Maldonado was a deserving winner, his achievement also makes winning a realistic aspiration for others who have not yet done so this season. That list includes McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, Red Bull's Mark Webber, Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

It also includes Sauber's Mexican Sergio Perez - second in Malaysia in a race he could have won; like Maldonado, he's from a rising generation of initially under-rated Latin American talent.

"I truly haven't got a clue," Williams said of his team's chances of winning more during 2012; Williams board member Toto Wolff was also cautious. "I can get used to this kind of stuff, I like it," he told autosport.com, "but I think we cannot expect a result like this on every occasion, or that we will be there now as a top contender.

"We have seen Sauber run very competitively in Malaysia, we have seen (Nico) Rosberg having a tremendous race (won in China), here it was us. It's a tricky situation which the engineers need to understand."