Maldonado: I am suffering but no point to be sad

Pastor Maldonado enduring a frustrating season at Lotus

Pastor Maldonado enduring a frustrating season at Lotus

It would be unfair, if tempting, to say that Pastor Maldonado is enduring a car crash of a Formula 1 season in 2014, despite several collisions, the Venezuelan driver has also endured exhaust problems, engine failures and penalties in 12 races for Lotus without so much as a point in return.

By his own admission, Maldonado is having a terrible time. And yet, despite it all, the 29-year-old is still smiling and still confident that his time will come.

“There is no point in being sad,” he told Reuters in an interview before drawing another blank in Belgium at the weekend. “We are here, with good people around, in Formula 1, good support from Venezuela, good support from the family.”

“For sure I am suffering that I am not fighting for good results but there is no point to be sad. I feel strong. We need just to put everything together, be focused, calm and it’s possible. If they (the team) have done it in the past, they can do it again.”

Maldonado is not the only driver in the paddock to have left a team on the rise for one less competitive, with Germany’s Adrian Sutil moving from Force India to Sauber and also failing to score, but his situation has been the most eyecatching.

Pastor Maldonado has had luck desert him in 2014

Pastor Maldonado has had luck desert him in 2014

Williams scored just five points in 2013, while Lotus finished fourth with 315 and won the Australian season-opener with Kimi Raikkonen.

It was already clear when Raikkonen left for Ferrari however that Lotus, who won titles as Benetton and Renault, had cash-flow problems while Williams had a spring in their step. Soon enough, the tables were turned.

Williams, once dominant former champions, are on the rise and challenging for third place overall with 150 points so far while Lotus have struggled with reliability issues and are eighth with just eight points.

All have been scored by Frenchman Romain Grosjean, but Maldonado – the first Venuezelan to win a grand prix – says he is not disheartened.

“Disastrous choice? I spent three years in Williams. I always said it was a good three years. It was my beginning in Formula One, for my career and experience, and I started with a good team,” he said.

Pastor Maldonado leads teammate Romain Grsojean

Pastor Maldonado leads teammate Romain Grsojean

“But last year I think it was time to explore something different. I chose this team because it was the best place available at the time, looking through the history of the team and what the team is. It’s a world champion team, good people, big experience.

“I think actually you can have a tough season, as Williams had last year, and Williams is having a good one this year. It’s a bit unlucky because I am having a terrible one but at the same time I’m learning a lot,” continued the driver.

“Hopefully next season will be much better, as Williams is now. Even better, who knows? We are working very hard, it’s a great team…they have great ideas and they showed their potential in the past.”

While Williams switched from Renault engines to the dominant Mercedes ones for 2014, Lotus stuck with Renault and have struggled with reliability.

Other Renault teams such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso have overcome their difficulties but Lotus, who started on the back foot after missing the first test, still have a way to go.

Pastor Maldonado remains focussed on the task at hand

Pastor Maldonado remains focussed on the task at hand

Despite that, Maldonado – who brings a substantial amount of money to the team through the backing of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA – was sure the potential was there.

With Lotus in the frame to switch to Mercedes units next year, taking on the supply vacated by McLaren, he was prepared to chalk 2014 down as a learning year.

“For sure I want to win again,” said the man who won in Spain with Williams in 2012. “Every driver wants to. I feel not happy for the results but we are working very hard and I remember when I arrived at Williams in 2011, we were waiting for a good car and we had a terrible season.

“The year after, in 2012, we won a race and were many times fighting for good points, good races. You can have some bad years in Formula One,” he added. “The important thing is to stay together, stay calm and wait for your time.”

That has not always been easy, however.

Maldonado managed just 29 laps in the Australian season-opener before the car stopped. In Malaysia he had a collision on the opening lap and in Bahrain collected a grid penalty for China after colliding with Sauber’s Mexican Esteban Gutierrez.

A familiar ride for Pastor Maldonado  in 2014

A familiar ride for Pastor Maldonado in 2014

There was another crash in qualifying in Spain, and more penalty points, while in Monaco he did not start due to a fuel supply problem.

Canada brought a power unit failure, Britain another big collision with Gutierrez while Hungary saw a collision with Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. In Belgium he parked up with an exhaust problem.

Despite the setbacks, the Venezuelan – who has a contract for next year – had no doubt he was a better driver than the one who also attracted headlines at Williams for race incidents.

“At the beginning of the year I was struggling a lot because first of all I did not do the pre-season,” he explained. “The first three or four races I didn’t finish because of the car. So all was delayed.

“It’s all about experience. This is maybe the first step and the next one will be to build the car around my needs. To stay in the team for two or three years would be the best solution.” (Reuters)