- Pastor Maldonado exclusive interview
The Pastor paradoxLaurence Edmondson March 5, 2013
If raw speed was all that mattered in Formula One there would be little doubt that Pastor Maldonado would be a future world champion. His qualifying record in 2012 was hugely impressive and if he had finished each race in his grid position, the Venezuelan would have scored 109 points and secured eighth place in the championship. The potential is there, but so are the doubts.
A cursory glance at his actual 2012 points tally makes it clear that Maldonado did not deliver on his one-lap potential last season, scoring just 45 points and finishing 15th overall. The errors tended to appear when he was in wheel-to-wheel skirmishes with fellow drivers and all too often he kept his foot in and caused a collision. The stewards took a dim view of his aggressive style and punished him accordingly, but Maldonado thinks he was treated harshly.
"I don't know what to do because Formula One is racing, Formula One is an adrenaline sport," he told ESPN during the final pre-season test. "It was difficult last year because I got to the point where I didn't know what to do. But this is part of what we have, we need to carry on and try to do our best. I know that I can be consistent."
It's a tough balance. His desire to fight for every inch of the race track is also part of what makes him so remarkably quick. That raw desire to come out on top at all costs and deal with the situation as it arises is linked to his ability to throw a car into a corner at speed and deal with the consequences. Without that impulsive streak he might not have pulled off the qualifying performances he did or put in the necessary lap times to score his phenomenal victory at he Spanish Grand Prix. But he insists he has learned from last year and is hoping the stigma he carried last year does not roll over into 2013.
"We just need to carry on because for sure I am more experienced. I will try to be away from the stewards because for sure they have been very hard with me last year. Even without doing anything I have been penalised many times, so I will try to be away from them. I try to do my best every time, to try to be very competitive always."
His comments can be read in two ways. In isolation they can come across as arrogant; as him blaming the stewards for punishing him unfairly. Or they can be seen as part of a determined yet finally balanced psyche that, if given the right guidance, will yield results. Talk to him about his prospects for 2013 and his views are just as one-sided and his determination just as deep-rooted. This is a man who knows he's quick.
"For sure I would like to win [in 2013], I'm here to win. And not only once, I want to win more than once. Why not throughout the season? And why not the championship? It's going to be hard, but not impossible."
It's fighting talk and it's delivered with conviction. Maldonado is not a fantasist, he knows the challenges Williams faces when competing with the top teams, but after his victory last year he has good reason to be optimistic.
"We did a great job here [in Barcelona last year] and I'm sure we can repeat that many times. We are doing our best to do that and I really think the victory in Barcelona opened the door for us to believe in our potential and to push very hard for the future.
"We are fighting with mega teams and maybe we don't have everything to be winning the championships. But I think we are going to win some races and we can be very competitive. I don't know if we can be at a very high level all through the year, but we are doing our best with the tools we have in the factory to do a good car."
But he admits it is still going to take everything coming together at once, like it did at last year's Spanish GP, for Williams to take those victories.
"We need to be honest with ourselves that it's going to be very difficult, but at the same time not impossible. We have good tools to be very competitive and this year our car improved a lot and we have good expectations about the car. I feel more experienced in the team and more experienced in Formula One, so I'm fully involved. It's looking quite good, but there is no guarantee that I can give."
However, delivering on his potential won't be possible if he continues to get tangled up with other drivers on track. What he needs is a run of races without incident, in which his aggression is directed towards emphasising his talent rather than squandering it. But with the field so tight and the Williams likely to need some coercion to get towards the front of the grid, will that really be possible? Either way, it should be fascinating to watch.
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1