One man back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2014 is Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado.
The Venezuelan is one of the most despised racers currently on the grid for multiple reasons: mostly because of his millions in backing from his country’s oil giant PDVSA, also, because of his comments towards his previous team Williams last year and finally because of his reputation as a crasher.
That final reason is what has him back in the headlines again this year following an incident with Esteban Gutierrez in Bahrain that saw the Mexican’s Sauber flip over.
Maldonado has since claimed the crash seemed worse than it actually was because of the sight of the Sauber in the air adding he believes the three penalty points and grid drop he was given in China was a suitable punishment, those fans who hate him were calling for a race ban to be imposed.
In Shanghai his reputation was only further dented as he simply drove off the track as he changed settings on his steering wheel before crashing into the wall at the pit-lane entrance later on the same day.
After starting last in the race, however, he did show some maturity by having a trouble-free race en-route to 14th place.
The trouble with Maldonado is most believe he is not learning from the mistakes and crashes he causes and is therefore not worthy of a drive in F1.
That is an incredible thing to say about a guy who has won a Grand Prix, certainly drivers like Nico Hulkenberg, who the fans have the utmost respect for, can’t claim that accolade.
For all his faults that victory in Spain two years ago does prove that when Maldonado is on form he can be a great driver, if he wants to find that form more often he could do no better than look across the garage at his new team-mate.
A few years ago Romain Grosjean was in a position very similar to Maldonado, he was described as a “first lap nutcase” by Mark Webber after the pair collided at Suzuka.
That was mere weeks after he was banned from the Italian Grand Prix after causing one of the most dangerous first corner crashes in recent memory at Spa-Francorchamps, an incident where Fernando Alonso was lucky not to be seriously hurt.
The Frenchman’s place in the sport was called into question, much like Maldonado’s is now, and yet just two years on, Grosjean has gained the respect of fans and most believe he would have been a top driver this year if Lotus has produced a good car.
Indeed for the final few races last year, Grosjean was probably the second fastest driver on the grid behind the dominant Sebastian Vettel and was the only realistic threat to the superior Red Bull’s.
Most credit Grosjean’s turn around to becoming a father last year, which put F1 into perspective for the Frenchman, while others also highlight the impact of then Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier, who is now at McLaren.
Certainly Maldonado’s mentality hasn’t been helped by Lotus’ severe slump this year, after riding high last year just making the finish is currently a big challenge for the Enstone team as the Renault power unit continues to give problems.
As reliability improves, however, Grosjean himself proved there is some speed in the E22 by qualifying in the top ten in Shanghai and running ninth before retiring with gearbox trouble.
Maldonado should take heart from this and calm down his approach, like Grosjean has, and then not only will he not crash as much, he may just have some better finishes and gain more respect from fans and maybe, just maybe, be known as the former GP winner rather than the biggest ‘pay driver’.
That would take a lot of work and time given where he stands now, but he has the best example anyone could set to him of how to turn a career round and he is at a team that will give him the opportunity to show his talent.
As a result we should give Pastor Maldonado one more chance, because you never know what he might just do with it.
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