F1 2015 Driver Review: Pastor Maldonado

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Pastor Maldonado

Team: Lotus F1 Team
Car No.: 13
Races: 19
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 7th (Canada, Austria, Russia)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 27
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 14th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Ah, Pastor Maldonado. Formula 1’s perennial miscreant did little to shake off his reputation for on-track incidents in 2015, although as he pointed out in Abu Dhabi, there is something of a cult and immediate blame game surrounding him even when others are at fault.

In terms of on-track success, there’s a good case for this being Maldonado’s best year to date. Despite finishing no higher than seventh in a race and only finishing in the top ten on six occasions, Maldonado ran well with the improved Lotus E23 Hybrid car, and would perhaps have finished higher had it not been for the run that saw him finish just four times in the opening 12 races.

And yet this again was Maldonado’s downfall: consistency. Errors were common yet again, and the 17-2 advantage to teammate Romain Grosjean is telling. You have to think that there was so, so much more waiting to be unlocked in the car; a far higher score than 27 points, most definitely.

One of my favorite memories of the year comes from pre-season testing, when Maldonado hosted a lunchtime media session and spoke in length about how good the new car was. After the press call, he went back out on track and we returned to the media centre. By the time we’d returned to our seats, a red flag was out – and guess who it was for?

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Maldonado made his fair share of mistakes, as we’ve frequently seen over his five seasons, and he almost never outqualified teammate Romain Grosjean. But to the Venezuelan’s credit, he improved in his second year at Enstone after his first, and surprising as this might be to say he actually had his second best season in the sport in terms of points output, and best ever from a final standing standpoint.

Other than 2012, the year of his lone Grand Prix win, Maldonado’s other three years saw him score in no more than one race all season. This year he bettered that with six scores – all between seventh and 10th place – and helped Lotus advance from eighth to sixth in the Constructor’s Championship. He also recorded his first ever run of scoring in three straight races in his career, this from Suzuka through Austin.

Granted, given the new Mercedes power unit at his and the team’s disposal, scoring almost half the points of Force India seemed a bit low. And the struggles may return in 2016 if Renault, which has now finally confirmed its plans to secure the team’s future, fails to put up a power unit with the necessary grunt to take it to their rivals. Still, credit where it was due to Maldonado, who passed off the unofficial “running joke of the year” torch to McLaren Honda.