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.
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?
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?