In the quiet of the sleepy Singapore paddock, a few hours after the lights around Marina Bay were finally turned off Lotus made the unexpected announcement that Pastor Maldonado would be retained for 2016. After his own admission that he “wasn’t talking to any other teams” it essentially was Lotus or bust for Maldonado, and by resigning the Venezuelan for another season, Lotus succeeded in showing the world how much of a struggle it is to balance their books. Said to be in excess of $46m, Lotus’ deal with Venezuelan oil giants PDVSA could be the lifeline which keeps the Enstone keep running for the remainder of the season, but at what sporting cost does resigning Maldonado come at?
Whilst Grosjean has gone from strength to strength since being branded a “first lap nutcase” in 2015, Maldonado has failed to set the F1 world alight, first at Williams and now Lotus. Indeed his record of 8 retirements so far in 2015 really does begin to speak for itself. Grosjean has emerged as the de facto number one driver over at Lotus and losing him to Haas will be a major blow for the Enstone team. Out-qualifying Maldonado 12-1 so far this year and scoring over 3x the points of his South American teammate, Grosjean hasn’t had to do much to leave Pastor many laps behind.
The fifth place Lotus crave in the constructors championship would be a lot closer if Lotus had two drivers pulling their weight in the team. Indeed, if they had two drivers who had scored the same amount of points as Grosjean, Lotus would currently be sitting pretty in 5th place in the table on 76 points, 7 points ahead of Force India, instead of looking nervously over their shoulder at the advancing Toro Rosso’s. Whilst it’s obvious the increase in Bernie’s prize money for 5th over 6th place in the Constructors doesn’t outweigh PDVSA’s sponsorship millions, I can’t help but feel that Maldonado’s presence in F1 lacks a little bit of sporting ethics.
Yes, he won the GP2 championship in 2010, and the Spanish Grand Prix in 2012 (god knows how) but maybe F1 is a step too far for Pastor? Our Maldonado Mathematics infographic goes some way to showing Maldonado’s shortcomings as a F1 driver, even in 2013, Williams’ darkest year for a long time, Maldonado was outscored by his rookie teammate Bottas by 4 points to 1, after Maldonado had already been at the team for 2 seasons.
It’s also worth pointing out that Maldonado has retired from 61% of the races entered this year. In comparison, we picked two drivers at random to compare with the Venezuelan. Kimi Raikkonen, who you could say has been unlucky with mechanical failures this year (Hungary for example) has retired from 23% of this seasons races, whereas our other random driver Ericsson, has a retirement rate of just 7%.
I’ll leave you with one final thought before you form your own conclusions about Maldonado’s ability to drive at the very top level of Motorsport, a list of the drivers Maldonado has crashed into in 2015. Nasr, Bottas, Button, Verstappen , Grosjean, Verstappen (again), Grosjean (again), Perez and finally Button for the second time this weekend in Singapore.
In an age where money talks, and so many talented drivers fall by the wayside, it’s such a shame that teams are required to take on pay drivers simply to stay afloat in the sport. Whilst the teams, and to some extent sponsored drivers cannot be blamed for making a living, surely the buck has to stop at Bernie’s door and steps must be taken to either further cut costs, redistribute the uneven wealth with exists within our beloved sport.