Since his illustrious victory at Barcelona last year, Pastor Maldonado has endured a slump in his recent form behind the wheel of his Williams FW35. So far the Venezuelan ace has failed to finish within the points for the Grove-based outfit all year, and was starkly out-qualified by rookie team-mate Valtteri Bottas last time out at Canada.
Although the 28-year-old’s lack of pace since his victory has been largely down to the uncompetitiveness of the Williams outfit, one can hardly deny that Pastor Maldonado has already become renowned for his hit-or-miss nature in what has only been a relatively short career in Formula 1. Last season Pastor Maldonado visited the race stewards on numerous occasions for a combination of misdemeanors mainly centering around his knack of causing incidents.
On the other hand, Pastor Maldonado also managed to stun the opposition on more than one occasion last year. Mainly in qualifying, the Venezuelan sensation would squeeze every last ounce of pace out of his Williams, allowing him to qualify as high as 2nd at Barcelona [eventually pole when Lewis Hamilton was disqualified], 3rd at Valencia, 2nd at Singapore and 3rd at Abu Dhabi. Apart from Barcelona where he stormed to a mesmerizing victory over Fernando Alonso, Pastor Maldonado usually went backwards during the all-important race and subsequently failed to reach the podium all season after his victory.
For 2013 the hopes were high that Williams had finally managed to elevate themselves out of the uncompetitiveness that had befallen them in recent years, with an exciting partnership consisting of former race winner Pastor Maldonado and former GP3 Champion Valtteri Bottas both eager to take to the track. However, from the opening race in Melbourne it became frustratingly evident that Williams were still suffering from their gremlins on the past. Pastor Maldonado qualified a dismal 17th and eventually spun into retirement, whereas Valtteri Bottas managed to at least finish his debut race back in 14th.
The team’s 2013 season has remained relatively the same, stuck towards the middle of the order and struggling alongside the likes of Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber. However, unlike those other midfield outfits’, Williams has yet to score a single point this year. This time last season the Grove-based outfit had already secured 44 points in the Championship, whereas this season they remain stuck on zero with the likes of Marussia and Caterham. This unfortunate uncompetitiveness has lead to rumors within the Formula 1 paddock pertaining to Pastor Maldonado, with the latest linking the Venezuelan star to Lotus for next season.
Although such a rumor may initially sound unlikely, the feasibility eventually becomes more apparent when you scratch beneath the surface. With Red Bull clearly eager to procure the services of Kimi Raikkonen for 2014 onwards, and with Mark Webber’s future in the team looking highly uncertain, Lotus could well find themselves without their flagship driver come the end of the current season. The Finn has clearly catapulted Lotus from a competitive midfield team to a strong contender for victory on a regular basis.
However, should the 2007 World Champion complete a move to Red Bull, a gaping hole would be left at Enstone. Could Romain Grosjean step up to the lead driver role? Unlikely, as he has already proven to be a danger to both himself and others around him on numerous occasions. If Kimi Raikkonen leaves Lotus, then it could very possibly be all change at the team for 2014, with Pastor Maldonado eventually being joined by the likes of either Davide Valsecchi, Jerome D’Ambrosio or even Mark Webber.
After extensive thinking, Pastor Maldonado’s switch to Lotus now seems a rather good idea for both Lotus and the Venezuelan ace himself. Although Maldonado has clearly endured his fair share of mistakes at Williams, he is unquestionably a race winner as was displayed at Barcelona last season when he fought off the challenges from Fernando Alonso to secure his one, and as of yet only, race victory in the sport. However, the 28-year-old has strongly denied the rumors linking him to Louts for next season, with the Venezuelan driver stating he is focused entirely on his career with Williams.
“I am 100 per cent focused on this [Williams] car.” Ensured Pastor Maldonado, in an interview with Spain’s Marca newspaper during the Canadian Grand Prix. “We are having a bad year, but that can happen to any team. I think I’m with the best team a young driver aspiring to something more in F1 can be with. Williams is not a small team, it’s an historic team looking to get back. And I want to fight for the title with them. We have everything you need to do that, and I want to win here before going anywhere else.”
Despite Pastor Maldonado’s strong denial of a potential career elsewhere in Formula 1, the move would have strong repercussions throughout the paddock if it did eventually occur. Naturally Williams would loose their extremely lucrative PDVSA sponsorship deal to Lotus, which would punch a wide hole in the financial income of the Grove-based outfit. The many millions would be warmly welcomed at Lotus, however such a loss to Williams at such an uncompetitive time could prove detrimental to the outfit.
Overall, Pastor Maldonado’s switch to Lotus could well just be another one of those wild rumors churned out of Formula 1’s ever-intriguing rumor-mill which now never seems to rest. Either that, or next season could see a complete change in the driver line-up at Lotus. Irregardless of the outcome, the hypothetical outcomes prove an intriguing subject which could well shape the grid in the years to come.
Picture(s) Copyright © Octane Photographic, Williams F1 Team & Lotus F1 Team