There's no doubt that 2012 has seen some fantastic racing in F1. The last race from Bahrain was spectacular, and every race seems to set the bar higher every time. If the season carries on at this pace, then we're definitely in for one that will be remembered for a very long time.
Qualifying in Spain on Saturday was again a mystery. The practice sessions this year don't seem to have given any indication as to which man will take the top spot of the grid. One thing is for sure though, the qualifying sessions this year are no longer the foregone conclusion of Vettel and Red Bull. This definitely makes things more interesting, but I must admit I'd be happier seeing the Red Bulls a little closer to that number one spot. In Spain, we got quite a shock result for quali - Pastor Maldonado on pole position, Williams' first pole since Hulkenberg in 2010. Admittedly, Maldonado's pole was granted to him after Hamilton was excluded from qualifying (due to a team member not putting enough fuel in the car to get it back under its own steam after the quali lap), but even for a Williams to occupy the second position spot is a feat to be proud of. The line up of the grid was completely unpredictable, and I think you'd struggle to find anyone who honestly would have told you the result. Maldonado took pole, with Alonso second and the Lotuses of Grosjean and Raikkonen third and fourth. Sauber also fared well in quali, with Perez taking fifth. Close behind were nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, after Seb chose to not set a time and save his tyres. Schumacher, Kobayashi and Button made up the top ten, with Webber eventually lining up 11th.
So as you can see, a pretty mixed up grid, making for what was an absolutely spectacular race. Alonso had a great start, as everyone thought he would. However, it transpired that Alonso couldn't turn this into a win - instead, Williams took the highest step on the podium with Alonso finishing right behind. The last few laps of the race were thrilling with the Maldonado/Alonso shoot-out, and credit has to go to Maldonado for not getting too intimidated and hanging on to that first position - honestly, if there's one man you don't want to be chased by it's Alonso, as he's definitely one of the best drivers on that grid. Add to that the fact that Alonso was at his home grand prix, and I don't think you'd find many men who could stand the pressure that Maldonado faced. Raikkonen eventually took third place in another great finish for Lotus, and I think it's fair to say that had the race gone on for much longer Raikkonen would have been right up in the fight between Maldonado and Alonso. With that finish, we had a Williams, Ferrari and Lotus on the podium for the first time in many years, and five different winners for as many teams in as many races. Williams can be proud of that victory, and I'm sure Frank Williams had the best birthday present he could have hoped for. Credit also has to go to Hamilton - from the back of the grid he finished 8th. I was also pleased to see that after his penalty Hamilton acted with good grace, and simply said he wanted to enjoy the racing. Of late, Hamilton's been slightly down and almost mopey in press conferences, but I'm hoping that we're now getting back to seeing the old Lewis, and we can start to focus back on his amazing driving abilities.
With the race over, we obviously expected to see no more drama until Monaco in two weeks' time. However, a large fire broke out at the Williams garage while the team were celebrating and listening to a speech from Frank Williams. The fire looked absolutely horrific, and several people had to be taken to hospital. Luckily, it appears that everyone was ok, although it's a sad way for the Williams team to end such a brilliant weekend. The team lost a lot of equipment during the fire, but other teams have offered to help by donating their extra equipment. It just goes to show how much of a family the F1 circus is, even if it's a competitive environment. Honestly, we could all learn a lot from these guys!
Now that this weekend is over, F1 heads to Monaco for one of its most celebrated races. The best part for me is that once F1 lands in Monaco, I'll be done with my exams, and free to blog and watch the racing uninterrupted. So, well done to Williams, and bring on the next race!