MAL de tête


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Nico Rosberg's retirement from the 2013 season was a sad postscript to Mercedes' last great day of 2013. This engine detonation dragged Willams' Pastor Maldonado into the points in 10th, to pick up his only point since the end of 2012.

Spain in 2012 saw Bruno Senna's Williams join the 2010 newbies on the bench for Q2, while Maldonado qualified second, which was upgraded to a maiden pole position amidst McLaren building up straws on the Hamilton camel's back. Despite being beaten off the line by Alonso's suspiciously normal stormer of a Spanish start, he got the Spaniard at the pit stop and won the race, holding off Alonso.

So, how do we evaluate race winner Pastor Maldonado? Well, the obvious thing to say is that he is rather crash-prone, and sometimes these incidents have been rather avoidable. The incident with Hamilton in qualifying in Spa in 2011 and with Perez in Monaco practice a year later were particularly egregious incidents. The lack of a race ban for either of those is unfathomable.

In three of his four seasons in F1 (2011, 2013, 2014*) he has scored a total of two points, which looks bad. His team-mates have outscored him in those three years too (BAR 4-1 MAL, 2011; BOT 4-1 MAL, 2013; GRO 8-0 2014*) although those scores hardly hint at too many opportunities. Indeed, both Barrichello and Grosjean exploited the typical attrition of the consecutive races at Monaco and Montreal - Grosjean finished on track behind a Marussia in Monaco...

So that's three years where he was delivered a poor car; such is often the way with a pay driver. But there is more to it - in 2011 he should have taken those points at Monaco, only to be rather unfortunate to come off worse in a collision with Hamilton at Monaco. However, it is true that he should have been black flagged for the qualifying collision with Hamilton when he picked up his point at Spa.

The best way to judge Maldonado is his 2012 form. The pace was absolutely there. His qualifying form was worth 123 points - equivalent to 8th in the qualifying championship and 7th in the real thing. Senna picked up only 2 qualifying points all year. And the roll call, even in that most upside down of years, is impressive. Pole in Barcelona, front row in Singapore, third at Abu Dhabi, Valencia and Spa.

I think the conclusion is, however, in. There's more than pace to being a racing driver. Fernando Alonso has the habit of being there when conditions are unfavourable, while Maldonado seems to find a way to not be there when conditions are great. After Spain, there was a 9 race run out of the points. A plethora of mistakes at Monaco (Senna took a point), poor pace in Montreal, a podium thrown away into the side of Hamilton at Valencia (Senna took a point), crashed into Perez at Silverstone (Senna took two points), lapped at Hockenheim, a poor start at Hungaroring (Senna took 6 points), at Spa a jump start, caught up in the Grosjean melée and another crash into Glock, beaten by Senna at Monza and unfortunate at Singapore.

Maldonado beat Senna that year, but he'd shown the potential that Senna couldn't unlock and he threw away. He's scored 47 points in F1. Two races (ESP/ABD 2012) make up 74% of his career points. I think it is fair to say that should Maldonado ever get a good car, he will have the pace. The last two years have not changed the suspicion he will not be around to benefit when the points get handed out.
This season he's had a few very strange incidents (mostly in practice sessions) where it looked like he wasn't paying attention to the road at all but was fixated on the steering wheel instead. I mean this is the nicest possible way but maybe he just doesn't have the mental capacity to make all the split-second decisions that F1 drivers are required to make, which is probably emphasised when he's wheel to wheel with another car.
This is what is frustrating about him. He has proved that he is quick, I was watching the Singapore GP from 2012 the other day and he was right up there at the sharp end until the car failed on him.
He just seems to have lost the concentration needed, his mindset seems to be that he's got a slow unreliable car and he just doesn't care so he's not applying the focus needed which is why silly mistakes keep creeping in.
He, unfortunately, is making the mistakes you would expect a teenager to make in Formula Ford or F3. He is, without doubt, very fast but you do have to wonder about his concentration levels or primary skills as I'm sure many of the incidents this year have been due to him overdriving the Lotus and pushing it beyond what it is capable of.

On a positive notes, his petro-dollars have kept Williams and Team Enstone in business which can't be a bad thing.
In my opinion he is the current holder of the Andrea De Cesaris trophy for car handling and performance. I see a great deal of similarity between the two.

Both were capable of driving a car very quickly
Both were kept in F1 mainly due to them providing a pile of money
Both spent a great deal of their time in F1 crashing in bizarre circumstances

The only difference of course is that Andrea never got to stand on the top step.
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One has to wonder how Hulkenberg would've done in the 2012 Williams instead of P Maldiddy - I suspect he would have scored plenty more points in it. I still find it irritating that Pastor effectively bought Nico's seat in 2011, having been runner-up to him in GP2.
That's the condition the pay driver lives in though, isn't it? As soon as a team has a steady revenue stream to have the designers to build a decent car, the man paying for his seat has to go off to someone else who is borasic.

I am glad someone pointed out that Maldonado is effectively De Cersaris of 21st century having junked a lot of chassis he would have been out of F1 if it was not for his money

De Cesaris - I always wonder how he managed to be still sponsored by Marlboro even though he did not fit the description of " World champion driver"

Post Alfa Romeo he still had Marlboro backing him throughout the rest of his F1 career
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