Pictures of beached or capsized yachts, accompanied by ‘Maldonado arrives in Monaco’ captions, have rippled out across Twitter this week ahead of the glamour race in the Mediterranean principality.
The Lotus driver, whose previous appearances around Monaco’s tight and twisty streets have kept the race stewards busy, has yet to score a championship point in five starts this season.
He has, however, picked up four penalty points, more than any other driver. Under Formula One’s new driving licence style system, 12 points in a calendar year brings a one-race suspension.
Asked about the jokes, Maldonado smiled wearily, “It’s OK…I’ve always been used to a lot of criticisms. It’s normal. It’s normal when you come from South America, when you have a country pushing very hard…when they are used to seeing you always at the top in the lower categories and here in Formula One you are not any more competitive just because of all the conditions.”
“We are living in a free world so everyone can say whatever. It’s funny. At least someone is talking (about me).”
Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix with Williams, his only success to date, but moved to hard-up Lotus at the end of last year along with long-term backers PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil giant.
He has yet to finish higher than 14th for his new team, whose sole points this year were provided by Frenchman Romain Grosjean when he finished eighth in Spain.
Maldonado was handed three penalty points in Bahrain for a collision with Sauber’s Mexican Esteban Gutierrez.
The Venezuelan crashed in qualifying in Spain and collected another penalty point in the race for colliding with Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.
In Friday practice in China, Maldonado crashed at the pit entry after an earlier spin on the track while adjusting settings.
The driver attributed his eventful start to the year as a combination of things, with Lotus missing the first pre-season test and struggling with the new Renault V6 power unit when the car was ready.
Most of the incidents occurred after he had left or was on his way back to the pits and Maldonado was asked how much he was wrestling with the controls and new systems.
“Could be, could be,” he replied. “Maybe trying too hard, and at the same time we were not 100 percent with the car, so the car was not doing what I wanted.
“Maybe even because I want to do very well, more than I can (with the car’s performance), I’m doing some mistakes. It’s quite busy in the car with all the switches and buttons, setting changes,” he added.
“Maybe this is affecting a little bit but it’s the same for everyone so I don’t think it’s the key.” (Reuters)