The best track in the world always throws up some exciting racing somewhere in the pack. It seems almost inevitable that there was going to be an unnecessary collision, and that right in the middle of it would be Pastor Maldonado.
Nicknamed “Crashtor”, the Venezuelan has, in 2 and a half years in F1, been involved in more crashes than Microsoft Windows. In total he’s failed to finish 16 of the 49 races he’s entered and has faced penalties from the stewards nearly 20 times in his F1 career, losing a massive 68 grid places (1.4 per race!) so far.
Maldonado marked his cards quite early in a coming-together with Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the Monaco Grand Prix in 2011.
That was ultimately judged to be Hamilton’s fault, and he was hit with a 20 second post-race penalty, but the incident hinted at what was to come. In the soggy Canadian Grand Prix that followed, he crashed all by himself with ten laps to go – but then settled down a bit until the Belgian Grand Prix.
Aggrieved at the faster Hamilton overtaking him at the end of the Q2 session when both were on fast laps, Maldonado used his car to ram Hamilton after the finish line. Qualifying was also an issue for him at Monza, taking off his front wing on the final corner – while at Korea he was reprimanded for speeding in the pitlane.
He crashed in every session of the next grand prix in India, being involved in a four car shunt in the race that ultimately led to his retirement with gearbox failure. Abu Dhabi won him a 30 second penalty for ignoring blue flags and in the season-ender at Brazil, he took himself off again less than half way into the race. He finished the season with one point – the worst tally for a Williams driver in their history.
2011 was a disaster for Williams and Maldonado, but 2012 was a horror story. He racked up the most driving penalties in a single season in F1′s entire history – hit for driving standards nine times over the course of the season, including taking out Hamilton yet again in one of the dumbest accidents he’s been in to date.
Alongside this and solo race-ending crashes in Australia, Monaco and Brazil again, he also managed to be involved in two different collisions at Spa following his ludicrous jump start. He even managed to destroy the rear suspension on a Williams FW36 during a demonstration run on the streets of Caracas…
With Williams returning to awful back-of-the-grid form in 2013, Pastor’s ability to interfere with the sharp end has been severely diminished, but he’s still managed to crash out of the Australian, Monaco and Belgian Grands Prix – again, smacking into two cars in this latest incident.
But it’s not just in F1 that Maldonado has been guilty of dangerous driving. Before he even reached the top level he was once reportedly banned from Monaco for life for an incident in the World Series by Renault in which he ignored yellow flags and hit a marshal, resulting in the marshal sustaining spinal injuries. The ban was later revised to just 9 races after rumours that wealth intervened.
There’s no denying that Pastor Maldonado can be one of the fastest drivers in the world on his day – you don’t win an F1 race by a fluke – but that’s just not enough in the fastest circuit motorsport in the world. Despite being bankrolled by the petrol-rich Venezuelan state bank and bringing vital money to Williams, he’s a loose cannon, a crash magnet and maybe even an on-track fatality waiting to happen.
The FIA banned Grosjean for crowning a series of niggling accidents with an unfortunate but relatively major one. With yet another senseless crash this weekend, is it time for Pastor to hang his helmet up voluntarily or will the FIA make him?