Last week I was lucky enough to find myself in a west London bar with the founder of Badger, Mr Adam Millenueve. We talked about a number of things that night, but one thing stuck in my mind from our meandering F1 related chat, and that was that we both *liked* Williams’ native hotheaded Venezuelan, Pastor Maldonado.

More than perhaps any other driver on the grid past or present, Maldonado divides F1 fans. Often described as reckless, dangerous, clumsy and, how could I forget, a “pay driver”, Pastor’s first two seasons in F1 have been anything but quiet.

Pastor looking calm – via pastormaldonado.com

In 2011 he set the tone with multiple clashes with ex-McLaren starlet Lewis Hamilton (Monaco, Spa-Francorchamps), including a particularly vicious swipe across the McLaren’s nose-cone on the way down to Eau-Rouge.

In 2012, this trend continued with incidents involving Grosjean (Australia), Perez (Monaco & Silverstone), De La Rosa (Monaco), Hamilton (Valencia), Di Resta (Budapest), Hulkenberg (Spa-Francorchamps), Glock (Spa-Francorchamps) and Kobayashi (India).

He has also been involved with controversy before he made his way to F1, whilst driving in the World Series by Renault, he was served with a 4 race ban for dangerous driving, seriously injuring a marshal after ignoring yellow flags.

It’s not tough to see why he has managed to gain a bit of a reputation.

However, he is quick. Very quick. He should have won the Formula Renault title in 2006, but was disqualified after a technical infringement, and he did win the GP2 title in 2010.

Despite his misgivings, in Formula One, he has retired from points scoring places on numerous occasions across both of his seasons, some of which weren’t even his fault, and has generally outperformed, ex team-mates Bruno Senna  and Rubens Barrichello in terms of raw pace.

Oh, and did I mention *that* sunny afternoon in Barcelona?

How can you not like Pastor?

The “danger man” of F1 drove a stonking race from start to finish soaking up pressure from an on-form Fernando Alonso, in a car that, although vastly improved on 2011’s FW33, was not considered a frontrunner throughout the season. It was a quite brilliant victory only overshadowed by the fire in the Williams’ garage post race.

He also performed admirably at other races, with reliability hampering strong drives throughout the season.

Despite this, he finished the season 15th, the lowest final championship position for any driver who has won a race during that season.

“But there are loads of quick drivers out there” I imagine you saying to your screen, “most of which have less accidents than Pastor”. This is true. However, there is something else about him. He reminds me of a driver from a bygone era. The win-or-bust attitude, the pent up aggression, the ballsy over-the-top overtakes are a welcome change from the also-ran corporate “nurse the car home” clones that choke up the majority of midfield teams. He is exciting, and Formula One needs more exciting drivers.

2013 is a big year for Williams. Whilst 2012 was a big improvement, the team’s second year of its renewed partnership with Renault and controversial technical director Mike Coughlin, alongside the transition from the stable leadership of Sir Frank to Toto Wolff will mean that improvements aren’t just expected in South Oxfordshire, they are an absolute requirement. Add to that the addition of highly rated Valtteri Bottas who, one would assume, will offer more of a challenge than the nice, but old Rubens, and the nice, but not spectacularly exciting Senna, the pressure will be well and truly on the fiery-Venezuelan to justify his place and fulfill his obvious potential. All he has to do is calm down a bit…

What do you think?

  1. Reminds me a bit of Nigel Mansell. When he’s on it, not much can stand in his way, when he’s not on it he can make some really daft errors.
    That’s the praise out of the way, Pastor’s biggest flaw though is his need for revenge when he feels wronged, plus he’s not always in control of his car or his mind.
    It takes a special kind of idiot to crash the car on a demo-run for example.
    F1 has changed, win or bust no longer appeals to teams, it’s win or points. With his current mentality Maldonado will not appeal to any teams who don’t need the cash injection.

    • But man… you can write so many things about him… however, something you didnt mention is the fact after focusing on “his job” incidents dissapeared from his last 6 races or even more, so… it seems next championship Pastor will be in all newspapers but with new and nice comments!

      • To be fair… he did bin it into the wall in Brazil (off cam).
        Crashing on a demo run was hardly his fault, the road hadn’t been swept and he lost the rear end clipping a curb (which damaged the suspension).

        Sometimes people will find unjust reasons to criticise. He’s not perfect (by any stretch of the imagination), but he’s exciting. I’d rather 1 Pastor in my team than 10 Di Restas

  2. Right on the money.

    I also really hate business as usual in F1.

    I get bored with the “nurse the car home” robots out there.

    Pastor is controversial, exciting, insanely fast, risk it all type of guy. We need more guys like him. I missed Montoya a lot !!!

    The FW34 was not top-5 material, but as Frank Williams said, Maldonado has the ability to extract speed out of a car and put it near the top or at the top on occasion. The FW33 was Williams’ worst car in history, and Pastor put out a very superb Monaco run in his rookie year, only to have it ended by a Maldonadoish maneuver by Ham-boy.

    I honestly think he would have won Abu Dhabi this year it he had KERS. He drove a superb race there.

    The last 3rd of the season, he appeared to have gotten his Latin emotions under control. Keep that up in 2013 and Williams is all set to move up the grid.

    I think Maldonado will win several races in 2013 as the FW35 should be a more solid package now that the Renault engine will be run for a second year and Coughlan and Somerville had more time to try their new ideas at Grove.

    Looking forward to a Williams renascence.

    • I can see the parallels with Montoya. But the difference is Juan Pablo had charisma out of the car, and also he gave other drivers the choice of backing down rather than just driving into them like Pastor does.
      And “nurse the car home robots” are what F1 needs more. If your car’s still running you can still have a fight with it. If you’re buried in the scenery then that’s one source of potential excitement that the race no longer has.

  3. Pastor is controversial, exciting, insanely fast, risk it all type of guy. We need more guys like him. I missed Montoya a lot !!!

    You missed Montoya, another driver who always had good cars but did not have the mental strength to deliver lap time…

    Let me guess Seb only won for being in the best car yhea?

  4. Pastor is a solid driver, Pete hit the nail on the head with the “Latin emotions” comment. If he actually focuses on the race as a whole and not the individual rivalries he has with other drivers then he can go a long way. The Montoya comparison is on the money. Definitely exciting to watch.

    Bruno Senna has by far been the biggest disappointment in F1. With Ayrton giving him as much praise as he did when he was young, I expected big things, especially considering the fact that he has driven for both of Ayrton’s previous teams. He does not seem to have the same drive and passion to win as his late uncle. He is a nurse, and I would have to say that he is probably the worst driver in the field behind Narain Karthikeyan and V Petrov. NK has to be the worst ever in the history of the sport!

    Bottas should do a solid job and challenge Pastor during qualifying. Lets hope that Pastor can handle that kind of pressure.

    As for the FW34, Williams should have ended up in 4th in the Constructors at least. Solid car, that showed in Spain.

    The FIA needs to f#$% off Bernie Eccelstone, his cancer to the sport, along with his mates! How F1 is related to the car industry is still a mystery to me, no other category in motor racing has to comply to the same ridiculous regulations. KERS, DRS this is all rubbish! Do you think that Mansell, Senna, Piquet or Prost would have put up with this rubbish?? Berger quit in 97 because he saw what was coming.

    More races outside of Europe is crap too. Half the people don’t even know what they are watching, Bernie and his boys are just collecting kickbacks. Where are the French, Portuguese, Nurbo, Imola, A1 Ring, Mexican and Argentinian. These are all classics! Its like moving the EPL outside of England???

    Lets hope that someone else wins next year, otherwise the rules will change again, just like with Schumi!

  5. Anybody who thinks Bruno or even Narain are the worst drivers in F1 has clearly forgotten about the legend that is Alex Yoong, and the man who took Massa’s place (briefly) at Ferrari, the impressive Luca Badoer. Other than that, good points Bobbo

  6. my bad nickbeano, yes you are correct. We cannot forget those greats in the sport of F1. Luca made a Ferrari look like a Minardi. Great job. The fact that he was a test driver for Ferrari for so long make me sad. Just goes to show the difference in class between him and Mika Salo when he went to Ferrari in 99.

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