Before the start of the season, I highlighted six drivers who had a lot to prove going into 2012. The article can be found here.
The midseason break is as good a time as any to revisit those men, to see how they're progressing.
Today, it's the turn of Williams driver Pastor Maldonado.
The recipient of almost every single barrage of criticism fired off in 2011, Maldonado entered 2012 with a severely dented reputation.
He wasn't actually that bad in 2011. But when you use the biggest sponsor backing in the sport to unseat a promising young driver, you're always going to be considered at the low end of the ladder until you prove yourself.
The very poor Williams FW33 prevented him from doing that last year.
The very large amount of sponsorship money—around £29m ($46m)—he brings to Williams gave him another chance.
2012 so far
One cannot look at Maldonado's year to date without speaking of his excellent victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The moment he crossed the finish line ahead of Fernando Alonso stands out as the most unexpected, downright bizarre occurrence of a season filled with surprises.
In that one race, the Venezuelan proved several points, gained a fair dose of respect and almost certainly secured his future in the sport for the time being.
But allowing the Barcelona triumph to mask the rest of his year would be a mistake. Take away that single race and Maldonado's season has not been a good one.
In Australia, he dropped it into the wall on the final lap after an otherwise great drive. In Monaco, he received a 10-place grid penalty for side-swiping Sergio Perez, then hit Pedro de la Rosa at the first corner and retired.
He started 17th in Canada after crashing into the Wall of Champions during Q2.
In Valencia, an inexcusably silly moment of impatience cost him an almost-certain podium finish.
At the next race at Silverstone, the Williams man qualified a respectable seventh. But in the race, he made another error when attempting an overtaking move, slid into Sergio Perez and ended up 16th.
Without his sponsor cash, does Maldonado deserve a place in F1?
And in Hungary, no one was surprised to see Pastor given a drive-through penalty when he botched an overtaking attempt and crashed into Paul di Resta. More points lost.
Qualifying-wise, Maldonado has been excellent. But his inability to convert grid positions to points should be giving him (and those around him) sleepless nights.
Has he proved his point?
Maldonado is now an F1 race winner. But one swallow doesn't make a summer.
The Williams is a good car and should be in contention for points at every race, but Maldonado has shot himself in the foot in six of the 11 Grands Prix we've had so far.
F1 awards 25 points for a race win. Right now, Maldonado has 29. The other four came from 8th place in China.
He's clearly a very quick driver with bags of natural talent. Sadly, he also has a tendency to make mistakes, coupled with a somewhat questionable temperament. It doesn't matter how fast you are if you don't engage your brain before engaging your clutch.
He's proved he has raw pace, which is a start.
But has he shown he's good enough to stay at this level without the huge sponsorship bonus? Not yet.
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