MELBOURNE // Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan driver, suffered a lapse on the final lap of the Australian Grand Prix, and slammed his Williams into a wall. With it went the 27 year old's chance of recouping more points in one race than his team managed throughout the entire 2011 season.
A sixth-place finish would have been an magnificent result for a team that took only five points last year, but Maldonado appeared to push too hard in his pursuit of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso when he lost the rear of his car on the exit of Turn 6 and collided heavily with the safety barriers.
He denied chasing Alonso, but conceded he was so angry with himself that he immediately afterwards remained silent on the team radio.
"It was a very fast moment, but I just lost the back of the car and hit the wall - that's it," he said.
"I had already accepted [finishing behind Alonso] because I tried to pass into Turn 3 and it didn't work. It wasn't a concentration thing - I was concentrating and pushing as normal, looking after the tyres and the settings. I was enjoying the fight, but maybe I just got too close."
Adam Parr, the Williams team principal, was understanding, giving his driver a consolatory hug and explaining to media that: "He's a racer. If there's a car in front of him, he doesn't appreciate that very much. So I am afraid that's just in the blood."
Maldonado was also involved in an earlier shunt involving Romain Grosjean, the Lotus driver who started the race in third, but was forced to retire after only one lap. The Frenchman blamed his rival for braking too late, but Maldonado denied culpability. "With Grosjean, I just tried to overtake him, did it and he went wide," he said. "It was a clean one. There was very little contact."
Grosjean's teammate Kimi Raikkonen, competing in his first grand prix since the inaugural Abu Dhabi race in 2009, finished seventh despite starting 17th after an error in qualifying.
"It feels like I have never been away," said the Finn, the 2007 world champion. "Overall the weekend was far from ideal, but the car feels good and to come back to seventh means we at least come away with some points."