Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado

PROFILE

After four seasons slaving away in GP2, Pastor Maldonado was finally given his Formula One break after taking a dominant victory in the junior series in 2010. In 2011 he had a mixed season for Williams, and his appointment for a second year in 2012 was aided by financial backing from Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA.

But Maldonado isn’t your average pay driver and he proved as much at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix when he took Williams’ first victory since 2004. However, mixed results since then, including a series of crashes from strong positions, mean the jury is still very much out.

He started karting at the age of seven and quickly blitzed the Venezuelan junior championships while studying at military school. The next step was Europe and in 2003 he moved to Italy and competed in Formula Renault 2.0 championships all over the continent. He won the Italian winter series the same year before a successful assault on the more competitive summer championship in 2004.

His titles landed him a test with Minardi at Misano and he was placed in the Renault Driver Development Program the following year. He struggled to find his feet in the World Series by Renault in 2005 after hitting a marshal at Monaco under yellow flags. He was banned from several races, but nearly took the title in 2006, only missing out after he was disqualified from the race at Misano.

Despite the setback, his performance was enough to earn him a seat at Trident Racing in GP2 the following year and he took victory at just his fourth race meeting with a dominant win back on the streets of Monaco. He finished the season 11th overall with 25 points, but had to sit out of the final four rounds of the season after breaking his collarbone training. He improved to fifth in the standings in 2008 with Piquet Sport and took another victory, this time at Spa Francorchamps.

2009 should have been his chance to shine when he secured a drive at the championship-winning ART team. However, he was completely outperformed by his team-mate Hulkenberg, who took the championship at his first attempt while Maldonado finished sixth overall, 66 points off the younger German.

Nevertheless, he started afresh with new team Rapax in 2010 and finally realised his potential in GP2 by taking the title. He took an unprecedented six victories and had the championship in the bag by the end of the penultimate race weekend at Monza. The title gave him the credentials to knock on the door of F1 motorhomes, but more importantly he had a substantial budget from PDVSA, which ultimately unlocked the drive at Williams.

He scored just one point in his debut season but the car was as much to blame as he was and he showed some potential by dragging it into the top-ten shootout in qualifying on three occasions. His big break came with victory at the Spanish Grand Prix but a nine-race points drought followed, partly thanks to some high-profile mistakes.

Heading in to 2015 there is no doubt that he was a talented driver, but he struggled in a poor car and petulant outbursts hinted that he was not ready to knuckle down to sort the issues. Keen to engineer a move away from Williams it was announced that he would be replaced by Felipe Massa, and Maldonado and PDVSA’s millions of sponsorship became hot property for 2015.

With Lotus struggling to finalise a deal with potential investors the team opted to take on Maldonado and his sponsorship over Nico Hulkenberg.

Strengths and Weaknesses
He’s undoubtedly quick – six wins in GP2 is a tough task no matter who your competitors are – but mistakes are still all too frequent. In F1 his mistakes were exposed so he might be better off knocking the edge off his speed to ensure consistent results.

Career High
Winning the Spanish Grand Prix and putting an end to Williams’ eight-year victory drought.

Career Low
Taking out a marshal at Monaco while under yellow flags in the World Series by Renault.

Quotes
“When I was about three or four years old I said I wanted to race but I was too young, then when I reached the age of seven my father gave me a kart and we started from there.”

Chavez on supporting Maldonado: “Sport should not be kept away from politics, it should be supported, like happens in Venezuela.”

Trivia
Maldonado has received several awards from Chavez’s government in recognition of the charitable work he has done for people living in Venezuela.

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