Pastor Maldonado has not enjoyed the season he would have expected with Lotus after engineering his release from Williams, nevertheless the Venezuelan remains upbeat as the Formula 1 circus descends on Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, which also happens to be the venue of Maldonado’s first (and as yet only) grand prix victory.
What did you take away from China?
We had a good start and first lap, but then because of the lack of top-end speed we were struggling to overtake and lost a lot of time behind slower cars, which compromised our final result. Lap by lap our pace was improving, but it was not enough to pass more people. I think we need to work very hard to increase the top speed so that we can attack more during the race. Otherwise the car is not too bad and it can only improve from here. We achieved a good step forward for the Chinese race. Now we have time to review the data and try to do the same again in Spain, hopefully giving us a good chance to fight for points.
Tell us about the Circuit de Catalunya?
The circuit has certainly been very good for me in the past, with the win in 2012 being the highlight. A top ten in qualifying will be our first focus and then it’ll be a very tough race in terms of tyre management, with a lot of pit stops and strategy. Last year most did four stops but Lotus F1 Team were able to make three stops to finish second. Overall Catalunya is tough for the cars, drivers and teams because everyone knows the track so well and you have to fight for every thousandth of a second. There are obviously races that are much closer to Venezuela in a geographic sense, but Barcelona is special for me because there is a huge community of Venezuelans close by and of course my mother tongue is Spanish. So I hope to see a lot of flags around the track and some great support as usual. It’s always good to race in front of your fans and I am determined to continue my good record there.
What do you remember about the win in 2012?
It was a great day in my career, a strong race and victory over Fernando Alonso in his home event. We really deserved it because we did it on merit and under big pressure from the Ferrari all race. People forget that we were outside the top ten on Friday and then everything came together. We qualified second – pole after Lewis Hamilton was disqualified – and I knew there was a chance to win the race. I just felt so calm and ready to win. That weekend, after being 17th in first practice, shows why you must never give up in Formula 1. It also gave me more confidence because my first year in F1 had been difficult, but as soon as the car was competitive I was up there, fighting with the top drivers. My mentality changed and this now drives me forward when times are tough.
What would be a realistic target for Barcelona this season?
I’m expecting to be more competitive. It will be very important to start scoring some points, but if everything goes well and we get some luck too then a top five is possible. It is going to be difficult – there are the two Mercedes and two Red Bulls and then others who have shown good pace in recent races like Force India – but if we get 100% from the car we can fight all of the other teams and come away with something good to build on.
What are you expecting from the technical updates?
Clearly we expect the updates to be positive, but it’s difficult to say how big the relative improvement will be because everybody will bring updates and nothing stands still in Formula 1. The bottom line is that we must keep improving and pushing. We won’t get to the end of this season and look back to think we could have done more. Everyone is fighting 100% to get back to the front of the grid. When we get there it will be even sweeter.
How important is it to get points as soon as possible?
It is vital because this team and the drivers are used to scoring lots of them. But more importantly it will act as a trigger for more confidence throughout the team and it will mean we can act on that and feed off it. The races after Barcelona are Monaco and Montreal where many variables usually happen. We have to be in the right place to take advantage of these and to enable a good platform for the summer.