Following another eventful race weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend, Pastor Maldonado has faced heavy criticism from the racing world.
Not only did the Venezuelan have a disastrous qualifying session on Saturday in which he was knocked out of Q1, Maldonado had another fruitless race in which he collided with both rookie Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso, and the Williams of Felipe Massa.
Bizarrely in Bahrain, the Lotus man was also found to be out of position on the grid starting in 18th, two places behind his allocated grid slot.
2015 has seen Maldonado fail to finish three of the first four races and although he managed to complete the sundown race in Bahrain in 15th, the one-time Grand Prix winner's lack of points is largely down to collisions with other cars.
In Australia, Maldonado crashed out of the race on the second corner of the first lap. A week later in Kuala Lumpur suffered a puncture after a collision with Valtteri Bottas also in the opening exchanges, and in China he went off in the entrance to the pit lane, followed by another spin and a collision with McLaren's Jenson Button on Lap 49.
The question remains then, is Maldonado a bad driver?
When it comes to controversy, Maldonado is certainly no stranger to the spotlight.
Over the course of the last three seasons, he has consistently claimed the unappealing crown of the most reprimanded driver on the grid and never finished above 15th in the Drivers' Championship.
In 2012, he racked up a full five penalty points ahead of anyone else, failing to complete five of the twenty races with two DNF's classified as over the 90% race distance.
In this season he sparked heated post-race interviews from Sergio Perez following the Monaco and British Grand Prix's, calling for tougher action on Maldonado for his mistakes.
Maldonado also had an intense ongoing battle with Lewis Hamilton where in Valencia he crashed into the Brit after a close quarter dual which resulted in a penalty for the then Williams driver.
In 2013, he failed to finish three races but was involved in five racing incidents from speeding to causing collisions across the course the season.
Last year was perhaps the Venezuelan's worst in Formula One. As well as crashing into the pit wall on one bizarre occasion, he crashed out in practice and qualifying on numerous outings.
In Hungary, Maldonado span heading to the grid. At Silverstone and Bahrain he collided with Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez, the latter of which causing the Mexican to roll his car spectacularly.
He failed to complete five races, with one where he did not start, and one where he was classified but failed to cross the line.
Some of Maldonado's retirements have been due to technical issues, but many have been due to collisions on track and bizarre incidents which seem to be a characteristic of his driving these days.
Despite this, in 2012 he won the Spanish Grand Prix becoming the first Venezuelan to achieve the feat in F1, and in 2011 despite not finishing seven of the nineteen races, his incident record was relatively average.
In 2010, he also won the coveted GP2 trophy ahead of fellow Formula One racers Sergio Perez, Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean and Suzuki victim Jules Bianchi.
Worst Driver Ever?
Maldonado's CV is less than flattering and his record speaks for itself. Despite evidence of the 30-year Old's undoubted pace and financial backing from his home land, there are major questions about his competence in close wheel-to-wheel action.
He is not the first driver to suffer heavy criticism for his eventful races however, so to label Maldonado one of the worst in history is perhaps a little premature.
Japanese drivers Taki Inoue and Yuji Ide are two names the average Formula One fan could easily forget. Famous for exactly that; largely forgettable racing careers. Inoue only had one full season in the sport, of the 18 races he competed in, Inoue failed to complete a whopping 13 of them.
Likewise, fellow countryman Yuji Ide was only seen for one season back in 2006. Racing for minnow team Super Aguri, Ide only started the first four races of the season before being replaced after an incident with Christian Albers at the San Marino Grand Prix. Ide only finished one of four races.
Giovanna Amati, the last female Formula One driver to compete in the series, is another contender for the undesirable accolade. She competed in three race weekends in 1992 for Brabham but failed to qualify for a single race.
At South Africa, she spun six times in practice and qualified nine seconds slower than pole sitter Nigel Mansell. In Mexico she was more than ten seconds slower than Mansell, and in Brazil, despite showing a slight improvement she also failed to qualify and was replaced by Damon Hill.
Canadian ‘Al’ Pease also only participated in three Grand Prix’s between the period of 1967-1969, all at his home Grand Prix. Despite being a highly successful racing driver in Canada’s history, Pease was not classified in 1967 for finishing 43 laps behind the lead car, did not start in 1968 and was disqualified from the race in 1969 for actually driving too slowly.
More recently, Italian Luca Badoer holds the unfortunate record of being the driver to complete the most races without a single World Championship point to his name.
Despite proving himself as a competent driver as had he competed in the modern era’s point system he would have held 26 points, Badoer failed to complete 33 of his 58 Grand Prix weekends in his career.
On his return to Formula One in place of the injured Brazilian Felipe Massa during the 2009 season, Badoer raced for Ferrari. He competed twice although was someway off the pace of the rest of the field, most notably two seconds slower than team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. After ten years out however, it is notable that many of the other drivers defended Badoer’s performance.
American Scott Speed also suffered a largely forgettable Formula One career along with Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan. Speed had two seasons in the sport and Karthikeyan had three in two stints. Both are only remembered by the purist with Karthikeyan’s only notable achievement being a fourth place finish at the ‘Tyregate’ US Grand Prix in 2005.
Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet Jr. is remembered for ‘that’ crash at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. During the same season, Piquet Jr. finished 12th in the Drivers’ Championship and had some respectable points scoring races, most notably second in Germany. However, he failed to complete 50% of the 18 races in the season.
In 2009 he was dropped midway through the season by Renault once again despite not particularly bad performances, but during the FIA Investigation into the ‘Crashgate’ scandal Renault team Principal Flavio Briatore perhaps wanted rid of him for other reasons.
All in all then, Pastor Maldonado is certainly not the worst driver to compete in Formula One. His record isn’t the most flattering but his lengthy stay in the sport and a race victory to his name are testament to his recognisable racing abilities.
However, the Venezuelan’s consistent talent to be drawn into controversy make him vulnerable to questions, and as long as that continues question marks will remain over his capacity to compete at the highest level in Motorsport.
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