Lotus’ Bouiller: Maldonado can perform well with “proper support”

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It’s happened before for Lotus. Can it happen again?

In 2013, Romain Grosjean was able to transform from one of Formula One’s most inconsistent drivers to one of its better ones, closing the year with four podiums in the final six races.

Now, the Frenchman will be paired with the incoming Pastor Maldonado (pictured), who finds himself with the same “talented but uneven” reputation that Grosjean appears to have shed.

Not many people are giving the former Williams driver much of a chance to perform well next year against Grosjean. But Lotus’ team principal, Eric Bouiller, is standing by Maldonado – telling British F1 broadcaster Sky Sports that he’s confident the Enstone squad can rein in his problematic tendencies.

“I think we just need to make sure he can keep his focus – actually similar issues we had with Romain last year – keep his focus on track,” Bouiller said to Sky’s Mike Wise. “I’m sure that with the proper support and team around him, we can do something nice with Pastor.”

“Maybe there is still some fine-tuning to do with him. And I think one of the most important parts, having talked to him already, is obviously feeling the support of the team behind him.”

After a 2012 season that saw him net five points-paying finishes and his first (and so far, only) F1 win in the Spanish Grand Prix, Maldonado suffered a setback this past year.

The Venezuelan could only squeeze one point out of the Williams FW35 and was unable to hold his own with teammate Valtteri Bottas. Additionally, his relationship with Williams kept getting worse as the season wore on and then culminated with his accusations of sabotage to his car during the U.S. Grand Prix weekend.

All of that – plus his substantial backing from Venezuela state oil company PDVSA, which Bouiller admitted to Sky was a factor in the team opting for his services – has made a poor image for Maldonado that he’ll have to work hard to overcome.

But he’s still a Grand Prix winner and a former GP2 champion, which can be easy to forget at times. You don’t get both those accomplishments by being a bad driver.

So while it may not appear he’ll go blow-for-blow with Grosjean in 2014, perhaps Maldonado can still prove Bouiller right and at least turn himself into a regular in the lower reaches of the Top 10.

Surely, stranger things have happened in F1.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.