Huffpost UK Sport uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Mark J Daniels Headshot

Pastor Maldonado: Calm in Victory, Flames and Photographs...

Posted: Updated:

It should have been their greatest moment in eight years. At the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday a Williams F1 car won a race for the first time since Juan Pablo Montoya, in his last race for the team and the last race of the season, crossed the line victoriously in Brazil 2004.

And Pastor Maldonado, whose ability and position in the team has been questioned many times, became the first Venezuelan to win a Formula One race. It must have left a FIA member running around desperately looking for the correct flag to display and the right national anthem to play.

Thankfully, no Borat-esque Kazakhstan faux pas took place on this occasion...

The twenty-seven year old had already cocked a snook at his detractors by placing his Williams on the front row of the grid during Saturday's qualifying session, only to find himself then promoted to Pole Position when McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was disqualified following a fuel irregularity.

With the Briton starting from the back, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was promoted to second and the Lotus Renaults' of Roman Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen to third and fourth respectively. Nobody expected Maldonado to be holding the lead by the end of the first lap and indeed, despite a strong start and a defensive line by the Williams driver, Alonso took the lead in the first corner and held it until lap 11, when he took his first pit stop.

What followed was a game of cat and mouse as former champions Alonso and Raikkonen kept young buck Maldonado honest throughout the following fifty five laps, but it was the relative new boy who ended up victorious, bringing to an end his team's winning drought and giving owner Frank Williams a seventieth birthday present to be proud of.

Five races, five different winners from five different teams. 2012 is shaping up to be a classic season.

But just ninety minutes later the celebrations were abruptly interrupted when flames erupted in the Williams team's pit garage. Thick black smoke filled the paddock and pit lane areas and team personnel from up and down the garages ran to help put the blaze out. All-in-all, thirty one people were treated for smoke and other related injuries but in amongst it all (286 minutes in if you watch back on SkySports F1 HD) you see race winner Maldonado looking around desperately for his fiancée, who had been in the garage.

Journalists and personnel tell him that members of his family had headed away and point him in the direction they went and then, in amongst the melee, fans milling around the paddock stop the stunned looking driver and ask him for a photograph.

I know that Bernie Ecclestone has been working to make Formula One less elitist and the drivers more accessible to fans but, on this occasion, many would have been tempted to say 'take a hike', and I don't think you could have blamed them if they did, but instead Pastor paused, smiled for the camera (twice!), and then headed on.

What composure and maturity he has shown in the wake of what must have been a turbulent and emotional day. A true credit to the Williams F1 team and his sponsors and, now, an interesting outside bet if you fancy being brave.

But I can't help wondering what the people who took the photograph must think when they look back at that picture, or show it to friends:

"Look, there's me with Pastor Maldonado, just after he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix."

"Was it foggy in Barcelona that day?"

"No, there was a fire raging in the Williams garage just behind him. Look, you can see the personnel covered in fire extinguisher foam, and if you look really carefully you can finally see an emergency vehicle arriving."

"Was everyone okay?"

"I'm not sure, but I think Maldonado was trying to find his girlfriend to check she was okay. I got there first, though..."