Maldonado has rare shot to extend points-scoring streak in Brazil

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You may wonder how it’s possible to tie the 1989 cult baseball classic “Major League” in with a modern-day Formula One driver.

However, it is possible by virtue of one smart-alecky line from Bob Uecker as announcer Harry Doyle when he wisecracks about the then-hapless Cleveland Indians: “Well, the Indians with a chance to extend their winning streak to… two!”

Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado is in that same situation heading into Brazil this weekend, with a chance to extend his points-scoring streak to… two.

Ordinarily this wouldn’t be that big a deal, except for the fact that in Maldonado’s four seasons in F1, it’s something he’s only achieved once in 74 career starts.

In 2012, Maldonado finished fifth at Abu Dhabi and followed it up with ninth in the first U.S. Grand Prix at Austin. When it came to the season finale in Brazil that year, the then-Williams driver was unable to make it three in a row.

But 2012 was a fascinating season for Maldonado because thus far, it’s been the only season of four he’s scored points in more than one race (five total Grands Prix, including his Spanish Grand Prix win). In both 2011 (10th at Spa) and 2013 (10th at Hungary), Maldonado has scored only once all year, and he’s now equaled that with a ninth at Austin this past weekend.

He has that chance to go two-in-a-row this weekend at a track that, as mentioned above, he has yet to score. He’s optimistic racing in South America, and not far from his native Venezuela, that he’ll be able to deliver once more in the Lotus E22.

“Interlagos may not have the most impressive infrastructure but it is a great, historic circuit,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance. “I really love the track, the atmosphere and the people – there will be a lot of Venezuelans there! Hopefully we can have a great race and put on a good show for the South American fans.”

With setup balance hard to achieve – Maldonado said ideally, you’d want Monza-spec for one part of the lap and Hungaroring-spec for another – he thinks a wet race would spice things up even more.

“We’ve seen some epic races in Interlagos where wet weather has been a factor, and thunderstorms are present. We all know the amount of rain which can fall in Sao Paulo and the Interlagos track even has grooves cut into it to help the water flow off the track!” he said. “It’s a challenging circuit in the dry and even more so in the wet, but there have been some amazing races over the years because of this. Whatever the weather, we’ll be pushing for the best result possible.”

And if said result is in the top-10 for the second straight race, it will be a somewhat monumental occurrence.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.