Formula 1


Pastor Maldonado: More than just $40m?

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In the last few months F1 fans have been outraged at how a driver with $40m in sponsorship can be chosen over one with arguably more talent.

Indeed the debate of Lotus’s seemingly inevitable decision to choose Pastor Maldonado over Nico Hulkenberg has focussed eyes on a part of the sport that most would rather forget.

The issue of money versus talent has dogged F1 for years as smaller teams take on drivers who bring greater backing to boost their financial balance sheets leaving possibly more promising drivers in the lower formulas.

What hasn’t helped in this case is the admission from Lotus and their prospective investors Quantum Racing that Hulkenberg was there preferred choice.

That has only piled the anger, frustration however you want to describe it that is aimed towards Maldonado, as fans and onlookers the distinct impression is a Maldonado/ Lotus tie-up is only one of convenience to fill a financial hole.

But is Pastor Maldonado simply the target of people’s bad feelings as good young drivers miss out on top drives or F1 altogether, in other words is the Venezuelan more than just a wallet?

There is no doubting that since arriving in F1 in 2011 most headline surrounding Maldonado the driver have been bad, from his endless crashes to incidents with other drivers, all which increase the impression that the man from Maracay is simply in the sport because of his backers.

Yet when Maldonado has had his chance to shine he has taken it, this was no more apparent than when he took an incredible win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.

Of course many could argue this was a fluke and his results since with Williams would suggest that, however, when given a car that can run at the front the accident prone Maldonado that is forever portrayed while battling in the midfield and towards the back, was discarded and one that showed real promise shined through.

He was pretty lucky that weekend, having qualified second he was promoted to pole after Lewis Hamilton was disqualified for not carrying sufficient fuel and his rivals may have been in cars that were not as fast as the others.

However the men behind the wheels of those chasing cars were world champions in Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, indeed in a car which for one weekend worked perfectly Maldonado was able to beat the two men who will be together next year at Ferrari.

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute we should put Maldonado in the same category as either of those two drivers, but what I am saying is maybe the Maldonado driving at the front is different from driving towards the back.

He was the 2010 GP2 champion beating the likes of Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi, all drivers now being noted as potential stars of the future.

Maldonado then does have talent to back up the millions is sponsorship and while his Williams career did end on a very sour note – only harming his reputation further among the fans – maybe the 28-year-old was right to be frustrated, here was a team that just a year prior had helped to two front row qualifying positions and his first F1 win.

Yet this year the Williams has comfortably been the slowest midfield car and he only scored one point the entire season.

Should Maldonado be confirmed as a Lotus driver I actually wouldn’t be too shocked to see him prove a lot of people wrong, he has the skills, his record around perhaps the ultimate drivers circuit of Monaco proves that, and while some may scoff, for a driver that has raced at the front coming up the junior formulas, adopting a new approach for the constant battling of the midfield scrap does take some getting used to.

Of course he does need to improve a lot in quite a few areas, his qualifying has been terrible and he does need to cut out the silly mistakes, but in a car where maybe he can showcase his talent, I think a lot of people will be surprised by what Pastor Maldonado has to offer.

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