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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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.