5 Lessons from Pastor Maldonado's Switch from Williams to Lotus in 2014
Whilst it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when it was announced on Friday that Pastor Maldonado would join Lotus for the 2014 season, the news has divided opinion.
The preferred driver choice for the cash-strapped Enstone team was thought to be Nico Hulkenberg, who now looks set to move back to Force India.
But with the German bringing little in the way of funds with him and an investment deal with Quantum Motorsports failing to materialise, Lotus appear to have had their hand forced slightly in taking Maldonado and his PDVSA millions.
Maldonado did show flashes of brilliance for Williams, no more so than when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. But his moments have been few and far between, and he lost many fans when he accused his Williams team of sabotaging his car’s tyres during qualifying for the U.S. Grand Prix.
So what are Lotus letting themselves in for? Here are five things we can learn from Maldonado’s switch of sides.
5. Williams Will Be Happy to See Maldonado Go
Maldonado lost a lot of respect in the eyes of many during the U.S. Grand Prix weekend when he accused his own team of sabotage during qualifying, as reported by The Telegraph at the time:
I think in my car somebody is playing with the pressure and the temperatures. You need to ask the team, the guys that are working on the car, it is quite clear.
What appears more likely is that Valtteri Bottas was just the quicker driver on the day and clearly the better driver on race day. Whilst the Finn was busy keeping the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg behind him until the chequered flag, Maldonado finished well down the field after sending an enraged Adrian Sutil into the wall on the opening lap.
Williams have gone for experience in the form of Felipe Massa, and the affable Brazilian will add a refreshing calming influence in much the same way as Rubens Barrichello did before him.
With Bottas touted as a potential star of the future, Williams now look to have a nice blend of youth and experience at the team.
4. Lotus Have Taken a Gamble
Despite the obvious cash injection that Maldonado brings to the team, Lotus will certainly be wary of what happened at the end of the Venezuelan’s Williams career.
Valtteri Bottas was clearly putting Maldonado under pressure with his driving and extracting more out of the car towards the end of the season. If Romain Grosjean begins to dominate the Venezuelan, as he may well do, will Maldonado's fiery temperament again rear its ugly head?
Lotus certainly hopes not.
3. Romain Grosjean Won’t Be Overly Concerned
The 2013 season marked a coming of age for Romain Grosjean, who finished the season with podiums in Korea, Japan, India and the USA.
So improved was his driving that Mark Webber lavished praise on Grosjean at the U.S. Grand Prix on BBC Sport a year after labelling the same driver a “first lap nutcase”:
This time last year you would have squeezed Romain into an error but he's getting more experienced now and he's become a good grand prix driver. You can see he's putting a weekend together. Not just two good laps on a Friday. Hopefully his bad days are over and he can have a good career.
Grosjean said on ESPNF1 that seeing a sports psychologist was the key to his success, and Maldonado will have to race against a teammate who is not only quick, but now much stronger mentally:
Once a week I meet her and we speak - a little bit about self-confidence and also not caring too much about what other people think. It's very specific but it's hard to say exactly what we have been working on.
I think I will continue for a while, because I do think you can always improve yourself and I do think it makes me a better man at home and a better driver on the track. So it makes my life much easier!
2. Maldonado Will Be More Competitive
Whatever criticism you throw at Maldonado for his poor season on the circuit and his controversial outbursts, he is bound to have a stronger year in 2014.
We know he is a capable driver, having won the GP2 title and the Spanish Grand Prix, and he should have a far quicker car next year.
Of course, it is too early to say whether the new regulations will bring the field closer together, but in joining Lotus, he joins a team with a recent race-winning pedigree and it is hard to see Maldonado not securing at least one podium.
That’s not to say that Maldonado won’t be under pressure to perform as he is keen to prove he is at Lotus on merit alone.
1. Money Talks
It is a simple fact of life in Formula One that money is often the deciding factor.
Had Lotus secured an investment deal with Quantum Motorsports toward the end of the 2014 season, it is likely they would have snapped up their preferred choice of driver in Nico Hulkenberg.
But Maldonado brings a reported £30 million of investment a year with him to the Lotus team, according to BBC Sport. And with no investment from Quantum forthcoming, it was simply too much to turn down.
Only time will tell whether or not the decision to take money over talent was the right way to go.