Flames tame Maldonado's first win as fire injures 31
Pastor Maldonado emerged from the emotional chaos of his maiden victory and the Williams team's blazing return to glory in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix by declaring his next ambition: to mount a serious challenge for the world title.
The 27-year-old history-making Venezuelan became the fifth different winner in five races this year - the most open start to a season since 1983 - to declare his intentions and underlined that performance with a dignified and heroic response afterwards.
Not only did he win a tumultuous race at the Circuit de Catlunya, he also turned into a hero when a fire ignited in the Williams garage after the race and he went in to rescue his cousin.
On the weekend of team founder Frank Williams's 70th birthday, there could not have been a more spectacular way of delivering a present to remember, even if it was tinged with some sadness and regrets as a total of 31 people were treated for various injuries after the fire.
Seven were transferred from the circuit medical centre to local hospitals for more intensive treatment of burns and smoke inhalation.
The Williams team said the fire, which erupted about 90 minutes after it had claimed a first victory since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, had started in the fuel area as it was packing up.
The team confirmed four members were injured, three of whom were in hospital. One was treated at the circuit medical centre and released.
In a statement, the team said: ''The Williams F1 Team would like to thank all of the teams and the FIA for their support in today's incident.''
The sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation confirmed the figure of 31 for those who were injured and treated.
If the fire threw a shadow over Williams' dramatic return to triumphant form after its worst-ever season in 2011, it could not blunt Maldonado's optimism.
The first Venezuelan to start a race from pole position and the nation's first grand prix winner said: ''Everything is possible. We aren't the best team at the moment, but the gaps are close and I'm driving well. And I have a very good feeling with the team and with the car. Why not?''
After Sunday's win, Maldonado is ninth in the drivers' standings, 32 points behind joint leaders defending double world champion German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and local hero two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
Alonso was delighted to finish second.
Alonso said: ''What we can say is we have probably had the most difficult start of a championship in these three years in Ferrari, with a car that was not competitive at all, and we finish the first quarter of the championship, the fifth race out of 20, and we are leading the championship.'' AFP