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.

As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.