Mid-Season Review: Pastor Maldonado

I think it is safe to say that Pastor Maldonado is not the most popular driver in the eyes of the fans. He seems to have been unable to negate the pay driver stigma surrounding his seat at Lotus and his failure to score a point even at this stage of the campaign has only enhanced this negativity. With his teammate Romain Grosjean scoring a comparatively excellent eight points so far in 2014, Pastor’s critics have only become even louder. However, I have defended the Venezuelan in the past, and his season so far has showed some, (albeit not many) signs of promise.

Season So Far…

Australian Grand Prix
Retired
Malaysian Grand Prix
Retired
Bahrain Grand Prix
14th
Chinese Grand Prix
14th
Spanish Grand Prix
15th
Monaco Grand Prix
Did Not Start
Canadian Grand Prix
Retired
Austrian Grand Prix
12th
British Grand Prix
17th
German Grand Prix
12th
Hungarian Grand Prix
13th

The Good

While the list of results featured above appears to be one disappointment after another, they do not tell the full story. All four occasions where Pastor failed to finish, his race was curtailed by powerunit issues. Consequently, the list of retirements paints a false picture of how reliable Pastor has been as a driver this season. It has largely been practice sessions where the mistakes have materialised. 
Meanwhile, Pastor’s drive in Germany was his first strong performance of the season. The Venezuelan had good pace throughout the race and battled on the brink of points throughout the 66 laps. While P12 was the eventual result, it did not reflect his performance and excellent behavior when in wheel-to-wheel combat, which is something which Maldonado is often criticized for. Perhaps it was a flash-in-the-pan performance and some would target his win at Barcelona in 2012 as such an afternoon, but at least it demonstrates that Maldonado can score points in the E22, should an opportunity present itself. Not only will this give Pastor some much needed peace of mind, but it will also provide sanctuary for those at Enstone who signed the PDVSA backed Maldonado for another season.

The Bad

While his drive in Germany was promising, Pastor’s season so far has largely been disappointing. While Romain Grosjean is considered to be a real talent and potential champion of the future, Maldonado has not posed a threat to Grosjean so far in this campaign. In terms of the teammate battle, Pastor isn’t putting up a fight.
So far, Romain has only been beaten by his teammate, when they have both finished, on one occasion, and that was in Austria when he was forced to start at the back of the grid. Aside from this result, Grosjean has proved to be one of the most dominant teammates up and down the field so far this season, which is certainly not a pleasing statistic if you are a Mr.Maldonado.

The Ugly

Despite his failure to score points, Maldonado will be a significant feature of end of season montages in five months time. He has been involved in some memorable, spectacular and quite frankly terrifying incidents.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was probably Pastor’s worst race of the season for one serious mistake, made at Turn One. As the Lotus emerged from the pitlane, he failed to spot Esteban Gutierrez swinging into the apex of the corner. Clumsy positioning by Pastor meant that contact was made and Gutierrez performed tricks that a Commonwealth Games gymnast would be proud of. The incident led to ten penalty points on Pastor’s super-licence, a ten second-stop go penalty and a ten place grid drop for the Chinese Grand Prix – certainly a heavy punishment but understandable in the circumstances.
The Chinese Grand Prix was none more enjoyable for Maldonado, as his problems at this event started on Friday. First came the embarrassing spin in FP1 when he was so busy studying the admittedly complex 2014 specification of steering wheels, that he drove straight off of the circuit, narrowly avoiding the wall. In FP2, he was not so fortunate, as he locked up heading into the pitlane, before making an excursion into the famous gravel trap which cost Lewis Hamilton the title in 2007, and plunging into the barrier. The most embarrassing day in Formula 1 history? Quite possibly.
Last weekends collision with Jules Bianchi was another disappointing but more importantly clumsy incident and the type which feeds the critics. While Maldonado is in desperate need of points, he also needs to record squeaky clean races to prove that he has the race craft necessary for a driver at the pinnacle of motorsport.

As For The Rating…

Pastor Maldonado’s 2014 campaign so far warrants 3/10
While there have been some highlights, (most notably in Germany), these have been hugely outweighed by ‘lowlights’ as Maldonado’s critics have only become stronger this year. While the Lotus E22 has been a disappointing car, Grosjean has managed to provide an eight point return for his team this season and Pastor can learn a lot from his teammate. Lets not forget, Romain has suffered numerous set-backs in his career so far just like Pastor. A quiet end to Pastor’s 2014 campaign might not be a bad thing.

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