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Pastor Maldonado




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Pastor Maldonado


Maracay, Venezuela

Official website:


Pastor's career path has followed a fairly traditional route by motorsport standards. By the age of seven he was racing karts in Venezuela's junior championships, initially finding success in regional and then national series, before moving on to the Italian & European championships.

In 2000, aged just 15, he made his single-seater debut, contesting the Formula Renault Winter Series, which he won. However, it wasn't until 2003 that his career began in earnest, contesting the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 Series in which he finished seventh overall.

He remained in the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 Series the following year, this time securing the title, while also finding time to contest the European Formula Renault V.6 Series and one round of the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup. In November that year Pastor also got his first taste of F1, driving a Minardi at Misano under the watching eye of team founder Giancarlo Minardi.

In 2005 he contested four rounds of the Italian F3000 championship and a number of rounds of the World Series by Renault. Indeed, it was following an incident during the Monaco round of the WSR championship that he was handed a four-race ban for dangerous driving having failed to slow down at the scene of an accident and subsequently hitting and seriously injuring a marshal.

Putting the nightmare of 2005 behind him, for 2006 Pastor secured a full-time drive with Draco, finishing the season third overall, courtesy of 3 wins, 6 podiums and 5 poles.

In 2007, Pastor made the obvious move up to GP2 however, it was several more years before he was able to claim the title. In his debut season he took victory in only his fourth race (Monaco). However, he was forced to miss the final four rounds of the season after breaking his collarbone while training.

In 2008 he joined Piquet Sports finishing 5th overall in a season in which in addition to taking another win (Spa) he gave a farcical performance at Silverstone when he stalled on the dummy grid, picked up a penalty for speeding in the pitlane as he joined the race, another penalty for passing under yellow flags, and then crashing into Adrian Valles and Kamui Kobayashi on the final lap.

For 2009 he joined the highly successful ART Grand Prix team alongside rising star Nico Hulkenberg. Pastor was totally overshadowed by the young German who went on to win the title, however, 2 wins were enough to help the Venezuelan secure sixth in the standings and help ART take the team title.

In 2010, Pastor moved to Rapax where he was partnered by Luiz Razia. In his fourth attempt at the title, the Venezuelan made it stick, posting six wins and scoring 87 points. However, despite some strong performances in the early part of the season, he appeared to run out of steam in the latter stages, despite taking the title at Monza with one round remaining.

In December 2010, Pastor was confirmed as Rubens Barrichello's teammate at Williams for 2011. Ironically, he replaced the man who totally overshadowed him in GP2 in 2009, Nico Hulkenberg.

Explaining the decision to sign Pastor - and drop Hulkenberg - Williams chairman Adam Parr insisted that the Venezuelan got the drive totally on merit. Many remained sceptical and the announcement, just a few weeks later, that the team had secured a major deal with the state oil company PDVSA did little to help.

We said at the time that despite some strong performances on the way up, Pastor had failed to convince and that it would be interesting to see how he shaped up over the course of the season. As it happens, even after nineteen races we remained as unconvinced as we were before.

Of course, things were not helped by the fact that the FW33 was such a pig of a car, lacking in pace and reliability. While in some areas it was quite innovative, the team devoting much of its resources to its low-line gearbox, it lagged behind in terms of the blown diffuser.

In Australia he retired with a transmission problem while two weeks later in Malaysia he crashed into the tyre wall during the second free practice session. Indeed, there were far too many 'incidents' over the course of the year, too many times when his Latin temperament clearly got the better of him.

While it wasn't until Spain that he finally made it into Q2, he generally gave a good account of himself, out-qualifying his highly experienced teammate nine times and being the only Williams driver to make it through to Q3, which he did three times.

While some might see Belgium - where he scored his sole point of the season - as the highlight, let's not forget the two needless clashes with Hamilton, justifiably earning the Venezuelan a grid penalty for the subsequent race. Then again, the youngster was probably still miffed at the clash in Monaco which robbed him of an almost certain sixth place and resulted in Hamilton's trip to the stewards and the infamous 'is it because I is black' remark.

Over the course of the remaining races, Pastor did not score any more points nor did he reach Q3. Indeed, his frustration was compounded in Abu Dhabi; where he qualified 17th and started 23rd (after a 10-place grid penalty for using a 9th engine), served a drive-through, and later a 30-second time penalty after the race, both for ignoring blue flags.

Nonetheless, on 1 December 2011, the Venezuelan was confirmed for a second season, in the eyes of most a move borne out of economics as opposed to racing ambition. On the other hand, Pastor had his moments. He clearly has pace, he also has aggression - sometimes too much - however, there was also that nagging doubt regarding his commitment.

While on paper Williams finished just one place higher in 2012 than it did in 2011, this doesn't come anywhere close to indicating the massive turnaround made by the Grove outfit. 5 points scored in 2011 became 76 just a year later.

Of course, other than the fact that the team was regularly scoring points, was the fact that in Spain Pastor claimed the Grove outfit's first win in eight seasons. OK, it came at a time when everyone was struggling to understand the 2012 rubber however, the fact is the Venezuelan took pole and won the race.

Once again, Pastor found himself involved in too many incidents resulting in almost as many visits to the stewards as Romain 'The Nutcase' Grosjean. Indeed, the fact that he won a round of a twenty-race championship yet only scored 45 points in total and finished fifteenth in the title fight speaks volumes.

Whilst not wishing to appear hard on Pastor, or his teammate (Bruno Senna) the lack of consistency - not just across the season but across weekends - was such that one has to wonder what might have been possible had Barrichello been retained.

Defending the decision to retain Pastor for a third season, Chief Executive Toto Wolff denied that it was down to money. "I'd rather have someone who has good speed, a heavy right leg, and who tends to make mistakes than someone who you can't get up to speed," said the Austrian, justifying the move. "You either have it or you don't, and Pastor has matured over the past year, despite a pretty tough time. He learned a lot from the mistakes, acknowledged them, which is always very difficult for a driver, and we are going to see a much improved Pastor next year."

Shortly after that Wolff was to leave the Grove team for Mercedes.

Paired with Finnish hot-shot Valtteri Bottas for 2013, Pastor needed to improve in 2013 for his Venezuelan backing would only carry him for so long.

Unveiling the FW35, Frank Williams, described it as a "step forward from last year's car", he was to be proved comprehensively wrong. Indeed, the FIA almost immediately declared the exhaust illegal, sending Mike Coughlan, scurrying back to the drawing board.

"The Coanda effect is going to be a big thing for us," he'd said at the time. "There's been no rule clarification concerning this area of the car, so we'll work closely with Renault to maximise the available gains."

While Pastor and his teammate seemed happy with the car in pre-season testing - and where the rules are not so strictly applied - it was an entirely different matter in Melbourne where the Venezuelan described the car as "undriveable" and warned the team had set itself "back a couple of years". As if to prove his point, he spun out of the race after just 24 laps.

Though fairly reliable, with only two retirements, one KERS and the other hydraulics, the car was a dog, the Venezuelan scoring just one point over the course of the season. So bad did things get that in Austin, one week after it was confirmed that he would not be staying with Williams in 2014, taking his PDVSA cash elsewhere, Pastor accused the team of sabotaging his car.

With a number of teams eager to get their hands on his money, Pastor eventually chose Lotus as the Enstone outfit continued to wait on the funding Quantum Motorsport had first promised back in June.

Interestingly, when the FIA gave the go-ahead for drivers to choose permanent race number for 2014 and beyond, Pastor chose 13. At the time we wrote: "Paired with the ever improving Romain Grosjean, albeit with a team whose future, certainly financially, is very much in doubt, the Venezuelan might find his luck has finally run out."

13 really couldn't have been more apt, for ignoring the number of incidents Pastor was involved in, the numerous penalties, 2014 found him switching from one dog of a car to another. Indeed, to compound his misery, the Venezuelan, who scored points (2) in just one race, looked on as his old team challenged for poles and wins and finished third in the standings.

The alarm bells first rang when Technical Director Nick Chester confirmed that the team would not be attending the opening test in Jerez. "We're going to keep our car under wraps a little longer than some other teams," he admitted. "We've decided that attending the Jerez test isn't ideal for our build and development programme. We are likely to unveil the car before attending the Bahrain tests, and in Bahrain we should really be able to put the car through its paces in representative conditions."

Of course, part of the problem was revealed at Jerez when the other Renault powered teams were barely able to put more than a few laps together. Over the course of the four days, Renault-powered team managed 151 laps compared to 445 (Ferrari) and 875 (Mercedes).

Once testing proper got underway, it was clear that in addition to its burdensome power unit, Lotus was running a dog of a car. Despite its radical look, the E22 was awful and, in tandem with its Renault power unit, it was clear the team would struggle. That said, it was never clear how much the team would struggle, scoring just 10 points over the course of the year and slipping to 8th in the standings.

Indeed, the team's season was summed up best in Abu Dhabi when Pastor's car stopped after 26 laps and burst into flames. Back in the pits the mechanics were seen laughing, clearly delighted to see the back of the car and the year. Whether they were also secretly wishing to see the back of the Venezuelan however only they can know.

Fact is, bad car or not, Pastor was hugely disappointing. Out-performed 15-4 by Grosjean in qualifying, his race performances were little better. Yes, there were frequent technical problems, but then there were the numerous incidents including crashing into the pit-wall in China.

Whilst Grosjean tried to make the best of a bad situation, Pastor appeared to raise the white flag - or red - there wasn't a single stand-out performance only 'incidents'.

Naturally however, whilst other drivers found themselves spending the latter part of the season sorting out their job prospects for 2015, Pastor was quickly re-signed by Lotus, the team, having seen Marussia and Caterham go into administration, only too aware of its own financial weakness.

Retained, along with Grosjean, Pastor's main hope of success would be the team's decision to switch to Mercedes power. However, whether this would prevent him clashing with and driving into his rivals remained to be seen.

If being out-qualified 15-4 by Grosjean in 2014 tells a story, how about the fact in 2015 the Frenchman beat his teammate 17-2.

In Abu Dhabi Maldonado told reporters that much of the negative reporting about him was not true, that journalists almost felt obliged to write bad things about him. This from a man who has a website dedicated to him which - admittedly facetiously - informs visitors whether he's crashed that day or not.

In fairness, those numerous DNFs included brake and power issues, but there were also plenty of 'accidents' and 'accident damage'.

There were highlights, Monaco, and that move on Max Verstappen in Austria, for example, but for the most part it was business as usual.

Fact is, based on everything we've seen thus far, and 2015 was Pastor's fifth season, if it wasn't for the PDVSA money he wouldn't be out there. Likeable though he might be, he does more damage (literally) to the team cause than good.

When Lotus announced that it had retained the Venezuelan's services for 2016 there was a collective sigh, not only from fans, and probably fellow drivers, but those rising through the ranks who feel a decent seat is being wasted.

With Renault now having bought the team it would be interesting to see if the new management was willing to sacrifice results for the sake of Venezuelan oil cash. If it was more fool them.

Fact is, that Venezuelan oil cash didn't show. The country already in the midst of its worst recession in living memory, the global oil glut, and the resultant effect on prices, inflicted further pain.

Suddenly, not only was Pastor's seat in doubt, Kevin Magnussen was being linked with the seat.

Then, two days ahead of the livery reveal in Paris, the Venezuelan took to Twitter.

"Today with the utmost humility I inform you that I will not be present at the starting grid for the 2016 F1 season," he wrote. "Thanks for all your messages of support, passion and concern for my future. I feel very honoured with the support of all of you and proud of my professional performance.

"I affirm my sense of gratitude to God, my family, my sponsors, my friends, my fans and all those who have helped realize this dream of being able to represent Venezuela to the pinnacle of motorsport," he added. "See you soon!"

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