Pastor Maldonado made it back to back point hauls with a seventh place finish in a thrilling finale to build on his seventh in Canada, while Romain Grosjean’s promising race was ended with a gearbox issue.
After expertly managing his soft tyres for 37 laps, Pastor was able to push on the super softs and battle his way from the edge of the top ten into seventh after a long running, close fought battle with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.
Pastor seized his chance on the Dutch youngster at the first corner of the penultimate lap to equal his best result of the season.
“It was a good battle with Verstappen despite losing some grip and downforce,” he said. “I saw some areas where he wasn’t as quick as me and I got the chance to overtake. It was close at times but we both had respect and we had a clean, good battle.”
The E23 Hybrid again showed itself to be a strong points scoring car, but he had ground to make up after a challenging start for both drivers
“I lost two places at the start as the anti-stall came on and I had to recover not to lose too many places,” he said “I kept pushing though and got them back.”
Starting one place ahead, Romain was able to cling onto ninth in a hectic start that led to a safety car after a collision between Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Thankfully neither was hurt and on the restart, Romain found himself battling with Felipe Nasr and Carlos Sainz.
Sainz would mistakenly clip Romain’s car, and that opened the door for Sergio Perez who would hold the Frenchman up for several laps.
“The car was running well, I tried to go on the outside and I think Sainz may have missed the braking point and made contact but I was okay to continue.”
Quick thinking saw the Frenchman soon pit to avoid further delays with Perez, swapping to soft tyres on lap 23, and the move also opened the track up for Pastor to move up the order.
“It was hard to get the tyres into the optimum window, I was pushed by Sainz and stuck with Perez so I couldn’t get the tyres to work perfectly,” said Romain. “Once I switched I looked set for a good race.”
The move looked set to give both drivers opportunity for a points return, and the open track saw Pastor move as high as sixth before he pitted on lap 37 to begin his charge on the super soft.
While he began to move up the order, Romain up ahead in eighth was closing in on seventh before a gearbox issue sent him off track and into eventual retirement.
“At turn three the gears wouldn’t engage anymore and I went straight on, I was eighth and making progress,” he said. “It was an unrelated problem to yesterday. My pace was good and I think I could have been in the top seven if I continued.”
While hopes of a back to back double points score faded, Pastor made sure of more points for the team in the final stages.
He made an impressive move on Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat in quick succession before beating Verstappen for seventh late on.
“It’s great to get another seventh position and the points that come with it. It was a big moment fighting with Max,” he said. “I wanted to get the position and I think we deserved it. It seems like we’re coming into a good time of the season for us so we’ll all keep working hard to continue scoring points."
Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi praised Pastor’s performance and believes the team’s potential will have both drivers scoring in the future races.
"That was a fantastic drive from Pastor to take his second consecutive seventh position this season,” he said. “We are sorry that Romain was unable to make the finish and we will do everything to diagnose and rectify the issue as he too was on course for a great result.”
“Once more, with the pace shown this weekend, we have shown our potential to score strong points in the races ahead.”