Maldonado aiming for top five finish in Spain

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Lotus may not have scored any points so far this season, but Pastor Maldonado believes that the team is capable of finishing in the top five at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya marks the first European round of the 2014 season, and the first chance for the teams to introduce major upgrade packages for their cars. Having missed the first test in Jerez back in January, Lotus has been on the backfoot ever since, but Romain Grosjean came close to scoring its first points in China last time out. Now, Maldonado is confident that the upgrades can elevate the team to score some good points.

“I’m expecting to be more competitive,” he explained. “It will be very important to start scoring some points, but if everything goes well and we get some luck too then a top five is possible.”

However, the Venezuelan driver is aware of the challenge that lies ahead of the team given the pace of its rivals.

“It is going to be difficult,” he conceded. “There are the two Mercedes and two Red Bulls and then others who have shown good pace in recent races like Force India.

“But if we get 100% from the car we can fight all of the other teams and come away with something good to build on.”

Maldonado enjoyed his finest hour in Formula 1 at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix when he claimed a shock victory for Williams. However, he has failed to reach the podium since then, and scored just one point last season before leaving the team for Lotus. He even accused the team of sabotage at the United States Grand Prix when teammate Valtteri Bottas finished inside the top ten.

He was followed to Lotus by big money sponsor PDVSA, whose pay-off at Williams helped the British team increase its income by over $43m last year.

Although a top five finish may realistically be out of Lotus’ reach, some points could certainly be on the cards.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”