Maldonaldo has the class to rise again at Monaco GP
Pastor Maldonaldo wasn't a name you'd probably have in the frame for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix. But the Venezuelan fancies his chances, and not only because of his triumph last time out in Spain. He's won a couple of times there already in GP2.
I commentated on his first GP2 win at Monaco. It was in 2007 and it was only his fourth race in the series. It was clear then he was going to go far. His rise hasn't been without the odd disqualification and other brushes with authority, but the way he handled himself and the car in Barcelona to come away with the win really announced his arrival at the top table.
It was great to see Williams as a team back at the sharp end, too. A first victory for the team since the last race of the 2004 season was a great way to celebrate Frank Williams' 70th birthday. What wasn't so great was the fire in the team pit after the race. It was a timely reminder that for all the precautions in F1, it remains a dangerous sport.
For all the hi-tech stuff in motorsport, fuel is often stored in barrels at the back of the garage. It means mechanics can fill the cars carefully and precisely before runs or racing. It also presents a possible danger. What was heartening was the way all teams stood shoulder to shoulder to fight the blaze with fire extinguishers and hoses.
The fire may have hampered Williams as they prepare for this weekend's race, but the team are confident it won't affect their readiness. The garage infrastructure and IT equipment was severely damaged, but has been largely replaced. Other teams have offered help and equipment in a move that underlines that although there is cut-throat competition on track, off it there is camaraderie. Given the movement between teams, it's not surprising. McLaren were one team that offered help; they have three former Williams mechanics on staff as well as Jenson Button.
Instead of taking a step back, Williams are bringing upgrades to this race in the principality. There is talk of winning the race, although it's tempered with more sober statements to the press. Maldonado though seems brimming with confidence. He's talked about mounting a title challenge, and given the wide open nature of the season, there's no reason to scoff. Five different teams have won the first five races.
Ferrari's president has gone on record as saying that he thinks his team could win the world championship. With the uncompetitive nature of the car it would seem an astonishing claim, yet Fernando Alonso is equal on points with championship leader Sebastian Vettel. This is probably more down to the genius of Alonso than the smartness of the car, but it proves the lack of a clear favourite for the title.
One person you must feel a little sorry for is Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa. He has just two points, and to add insult to injury Ferrari have publicly demanded an improvement. Last time out he was lapped by Alonso, and on Twitter the team said they were 'disappointed' with Massa. They later told a British newspaper that 'it was a poor choice of grammar. We are disappointed in the outcome of Felipe but not with Felipe himself.'
Even so, it's hardly a ringing endorsement for the 31-year-old Brazilian and already the speculation has started over who will replace him. What he needs, like everyone at Monaco is a good qualifying session. The narrow track means overtaking is difficult which will lessen the effect of the gloriously unpredictable Pirelli tyres.
Let's hope everyone takes qualifying seriously. Too many times this season we've seen teams make it to the final qualifying session and not go out on track just to preserve an extra set of tyres for the race. That short changes the fans and the sport.