BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado crossed the finish line in 10th place on Sunday to put former Formula One champions Williams out of the misery of a 10-race streak without a point.
Their first scoring finish since the U.S. Grand Prix at Austin, Texas, last November was hardly worthy of celebration for a team that ranks second only to Ferrari in terms of the number of constructors’ titles won (nine).
It was, however, a major relief.
Six laps before the end it had looked as if they were destined to fail again, with Maldonado running in 11th place and Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas suffering his first retirement of the season.
Then the engine on Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes let out a plume of smoke, followed by flames, on lap 65 of 70 and Maldonado inherited the precious point.
“One point, finally. For the team this point is very important, but we need to keep pushing,” said the driver, who won for Williams in Spain last year - their first triumph in nearly eight years.
“Today is a small step forward, but it’s not enough. It’s enough to show everyone we have improved, but we need to keep improving, especially in qualifying.”
The run of nine races this season without a point marked Williams’ worst start to a season in which they have celebrated their 600th grand prix.
Maldonado hoped that a change in the Pirelli tyres, imposed after a sequence of blowouts at last month’s British Grand Prix, had also brought about a change in fortune that would continue for the remaining nine races.
”The potential is there,“ he said. ”Throughout the weekend we were competitive, more than before.
”We’re not the quickest, but we are consistent, which is one of our strongest points. At the last two or three races we’ve been able to fight for the top 10, but for so many reasons we didn’t make it.
“With these new tyres they are much better for us. I‘m encouraged to see how we will be at Spa because normally in the high-speed corners are our car is quite good.”
Hungary was the last race before Formula One shuts up shop for the August break. The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps is next up on August 25.
Editing by John Mehaffey