Let’s get one thing straight about Pastor Maldonado – he’s a very, very quick racing driver.
If you strip away everything else you associate the Venezuelan with – large sponsorship budget, overly aggressive on-track behaviour, immature statements off it – he knows how to get the maximum from any machine he sits in.
He’s an enigma because of everything else around him, the poster child for the new generation of pay drivers moving into Formula One; backed by a national corporation, with political blessing. There’s also a harking back to a bygone age, a maverick when it comes overtaking, throwing caution to the wind more often than not, which has cost him more points than Williams could cope with. They just couldn’t consistently unlock the puzzle that was his talent. Both grew frustrated.
Lotus signing Pastor is a sign of how the team is struggling, but it might just be a blessing in disguise. No solid deal with the Quantum investment group means the Enstone team needed cash – and fast. Maldonado could provide that, and fast. It’s almost a deal made in business heaven.
Connected to a rumoured $30m package is a driver whose reputation has taken a battering in the last 18 months. That win in Spain has been the albatross around his neck. Critics will say it was simply a fluke, but it’s quite possible the fluke was Williams getting the car to work so well across the course of a weekend.
Maldonado drove the race to perfection. Can anyone argue he didn’t?
What Lotus have inherited with a heap of PDVSA money is essentially a rough diamond. Yes, there’s an element of risk taking him on, but there was the same risk keeping Romain Grosjean in the team after his start to 2013. He turned his season – and his reputation – around convincingly. Why can’t lightning strike in the same place twice?
If Lotus want to make this work, they’ll have to get the “wild man” of F1 onto the straight and narrow. An investment like that might just pay dividends for all involved….