Pastor Maldonado Lotus

Pastor Maldonado

Driver Details

  • Nationality: VEN
  • Current standing: 16th
  • Points: 2
  • Last Race: RET
  • Best Finish: 1st (x1)

2014 marks a new chapter in the career of Pastor Maldonado, but can the Venezuelan shake the tag of pantomime villain when he moves to Lotus for his fourth season in F1.

Few drivers divide opinion quite like the 28-year-old, who remains somewhat of an enigma and hardly endeared himself to the fans any further when he accused the Williams team of sabotaging his car at the 2013 United States GP.

He clearly has natural speed, as was demonstrated by winning the GP2 title in 2010 - the only driver to have won six successive feature races in a single season - and his pole position and victory at the 2012 Spanish GP. However, Maldonado has never been able to shrug off the 'pay driver' tag due to the millions of dollars he brings from Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA.

Furthermore, his pace seemed to desert him in 2013 as he was outqualfied 12-7 by rookie team-mate Valtteri Bottas in his final season with Williams.

The South American's first taste of F1 action actually came in 2004 when he tested with Minardi. Williams team boss Frank Williams had long been an admirer of Maldonado, saying he first caught his eye in 2007. His impressive 2010 GP2 campaign convinced the Grove-based team to hand him the driving duties for the Young Drivers' Test in Abu Dhabi at the conclusion of that season.

He clearly did enough during the test as the team confirmed his signing a few days later and teamed him up with veteran Rubens Barrichello. Life in Formula 1 got off to a very difficult start for the Venezuelan, though, as he retired in his first two races in Australia and Malaysia. He finally managed to see the chequered flag in China, but it was from a disappointing P18 spot.

With Williams struggling for pace and reliability, Maldonado was always going to find it difficult to make much of an impact and despite a confident performance at Monaco - where he ran sixth in the closing laps before a collision with Lewis Hamilton - he had to wait until the 12th race of the season in Belgium to pick up his first point.

Although there were more encouraging signs during the latter half of the year, it proved to be Maldonado's one-and-only point as the once all-conquering Grove team slumped to the worst ever season in their history.

A subsequent technical overhaul, and the arrival of Renault engines, improved things dramatically for 2012 and the FW34 - in Maldonado's hands at least - was a potent race machine from the off. So much so that the Venezuelan was on course to finish at least sixth in Melbourne until he threw the car off the road while, perhaps unwisely, continuing to hunt down Fernando Alonso on the final lap.

Still, no-one expected what was to come four races later in Barcelona. After qualifying on the front row out of the blue, he started on pole for the first time after Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid, and then in the race flawlessly beat home hero Alonso to score one of the most unlikely victories of recent times.

But rather than following in the footsteps of many first-time winners and growing in stature and performance, Maldonado's season and results lurched the other way. He was involved in a succession of incidents and accidents over the summer months - including side-swiping Hamilton while attempting a pass for the podium late on in Valencia.

Indeed, it wasn't until Japan - some 10 races on from his supposed 'breakthrough' win - that he finished in the points again. Although he insisted he hadn't, and wouldn't, reign in his now trademark aggressive style, Maldonado did nonetheless appear to adopt a more measured approach in the final flyaways as further points finishes in Abu Dhabi (fifth) and Austin (ninth) seemed to testify.

2013 was a difficult year for the Venezuelan as he was comprehensively outperformed by his rookie team-mate, scoring just a solitary point in Hungary. Interestingly when his new team needed a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races, it was Nico Hulkenberg they approached rather than Maldonado, suggesting he was not the man they wanted for 2014.

Whether Maldonado will be a success at Lotus remains to be seen. The team managed to tame the wild ways of Romain Grosjean and turn him into one of the most promising drivers on the grid and it will be interesting to see if they squad can achieve a similar feat.