Maldonado admits pay driver comments got to him

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All the jokes and jibes about his being just a pay driver got to Pastor Maldonado a bit, the now-Formula 1 winner says in an exclusive — and I think pretty open and revealing — exclusive Q&A with the official Formula 1 site.

(Quick side note: How does the official site get all these exclusive interviews, anyway?*)

Here’s a link to the piece, and a few key moments:

Q: A rookie season is never easy but yours in 2011 came close to a catastrophe. In what spirit did you head into this season?
Pastor Maldonado: 
For sure last year was very complicated for the team – not just for me. But of course as a rookie, who has to find his way around, I lived through some very difficult moments. There were some big problems and I hardly knew how to handle them, even with a team mate like Rubens (Barrichello) at my side with all his experience. So it definitely was not an easy year. Still even with this ‘luggage’ the team had to cope and I tried to focus on my personal learning curve and I tried to learn as much as possible. And I did it! Now I feel very comfortable in the team. I feel like a member of a big family. I have to say that this season it’s looking really good for us. Since the winter tests the car appears to be really quick. I think we were very unfortunate at the start of the season because we weren’t able to show our true potential. We have been tied down by rather small problems which have cost us a lot of time and then we made a huge leap forward in Barcelona. I have to admit that I drove very well and it felt right in terms of the car and my engineers. So we bagged the big trophy.

[snip]

Q: How annoying was it to always see yourself described as a pay driver? Everybody suddenly seemed to forget that you were GP2 champion…
PM: 
Sometimes, some comments really got to me. But at the same time I knew better and was sure that by giving my best I would prove all the false comments were wrong. I knew it would just be a matter of time. Good results – and winning – are the best way to stop such nonsense. I never felt that I was paying to race. It’s a natural process. A GP2 champion should advance to Formula One – Nico Rosberg did, Nico Hulkenberg did and I did. Now it is my mission to win with Williams in Formula One.

Q: Good results were probably on your agenda for this year, but did you target a win? How much were you shocked by your victory in Barcelona?
PM: 
Nobody was expecting the Barcelona result – not even me. But after qualifying the idea was there and I thought with this opportunity that I should go for it. And we did it. I have been in pole position many times in other series so that wasn’t a new feeling for me. So I said to myself that I had to bring it home. We always knew that the car’s biggest asset was race pace so I was confident we’d have a good race. But I didn’t imagine it would be such a good race, with the Lotus cars being so quick, Fernando Alonso wanting to shine in front of his home crowd and Red Bull and McLaren. So I went out there hoping to do the best that I could and to then see what the result was. It must have been my lucky day.

[snip]

Q: What makes the FW34 so much better than last year’s FW33?
PM: 
Firstly, it is an all-encompassing approach to the car. We now have a Renault engine, which isn’t only better in terms of performance but is smaller and lighter. We have built the car around the engine so the weight distribution and the aerodynamics are better. But we have also kept improving over the last few months. Over the winter we knew that we had a good car but we haven’t stopped since then and Barcelona was payday.

Q: Are you Williams’ new Alan Jones?
PM: 
Ha, I don’t know. But for sure I am enjoying a wonderful moment with the team right now. Eight years without a race win is a long time, especially when you have been used to winning.

Q: What were Frank Williams’ first words to you after you got out of the car?
PM: 
Frank was so happy. Funnily enough I don’t remember his exact words. But there was a congratulations and he said that I’d done a great job. He also said that he was quite impressed. To hear that from him was just great.

Is it just me, or does he come across as incredibly likable? And how much has your opinion changed about him since Spain?

* That’s a joke.

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