Formula One: Maldonado crashes in final Monaco practice

Reuters, Saturday 26 May 2012

Winner of Spanish Grand Prix, his team's first victory in nearly eight years, smashes into barriers at top of hill in Casino Square

Pastor Maldonado
Williams Formula One driver Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela has his car winched away after he crashed it during the third practice session of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix May 26, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS)

Pastor Maldonado created work for his Williams mechanics by crashing in final practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday.

While long-term Monaco resident Nico Rosberg lapped fastest for Mercedes, ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Red Bull's world champion Sebastian Vettel, the focus was on the Venezuelan.

The winner of the Spanish Grand Prix, his team's first victory in nearly eight years, smashed into the barriers at the top of the hill in Casino Square and ripped off the right rear wheel as well as half the front wing.

Maldonado, whose team have had to borrow some essential equipment from rivals after fire ripped through their garage in Spain after the race 13 days ago, was able to coast to a halt at Mirabeau on three wheels.

The accident, on a hot morning at the harbourside track, left debris across the asphalt and ended the session with nearly four minutes remaining on the clock. Qualifying was due to start at 1200GMT.

Maldonado may have damaged his car on the previous lap when he chopped and hit the Sauber of Sergio Perez at Portier on the approach to the tunnel, promoting an angry outburst from the Mexican over the radio.

"Maldonado was crazy," said the Mexican, who crashed heavily on the other end of the tunnel during qualifying last year and spent the race in hospital.

Force India's Paul Di Resta skidded, slid sideways and speared into the metal barriers at the tunnel exit in Saturday's session, smashing his car's nose. Vettel also clipped the barriers in the Swimming Pool section.  

Rosberg's time of one minute 15.159 was 0.038 quicker than Brazilian Massa, whose best lap hinted at a return to form after he scored just two points from five races.

Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso, level on points with Vettel at the top of the very close standings, was fourth fastest with Frenchman Romain Grosjean fifth for Lotus ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

Grosjean and Hamilton, the early favourite for Sunday's race, look the best bets to set a Formula One record of six different winners from the first six rounds of a season. Neither has won so far this year.

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