When you have a national sponsor like PDVSA, your odds improve as far as your dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver. For Pastor Maldonado, that’s exactly what happened to him and while he is a race-winner and F1 driver, some fans consider him to be fry short of a Happy Meal when it comes to skills and merit to be on the grid.
Pastor won the Spanish Grand Prix in 2012 and while circumstances placed him in a good position to win, the Venezuelan did show pace and poise to bring the car home in one piece. It was until after the race that the Williams F1 garage caught fire and mangled the car—a sign of the universe exploding with delight or rebuttal to a unthinkable outcome?
I met Pastor in an elevator during the USGP in Austin and while considerably shorter than I am, he was considerably nicer than me. Two men on an elevator and while I know quite a bit about him, he doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground. I said “good luck today Pastor” for which he replied with a toothy smile and said thanks, I really appreciate that. Given all the vituperative noise about the young man, I truly believe he did appreciate it.
Pastor told AUTOSPORT that the seemingly endless negative commentary about him doesn’t gain purchase in his mind:
“Sure, there are some comments that I don’t like but I can’t do anything.
“It is good to be free to talk and to say what you think.
“There are people that are not even happy with Alonso. It’s just an example, but some people say he’s arrogant.
“He’s a good guy in my opinion and he’s a wonderful driver.
“But when you are in the public eye, people can give their opinions.
“There are some good comments, some bad comments but it doesn’t matter for me.”
It’s true, very few drivers have had the admiration of everyone. Even Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton, Vettel, and Hakkinen have their detractors. Although, I’m not sure I’ve read a cross word about Jim Clark to be honest.
Pastor said mistakes happen in F1 and he couldn’t be more correct, they certainly do. Just look at Spa in 2014 for an example of a slight mistake that was blown completely out of proportion in context with F1 races over the last five decades. Pastor even calls out some of the big names of 2014 to show that they can all have bad days at the bitumen office:
“We are human. Even [Daniel] Ricciardo crashed at Suzuka. It’s not only me,”
To be fair, here, making a mistake is one thing but consistently making them is something that Maldonado is struggling to clear his CV of. When you look at his racing career, he’s not done too badly in the junior series winning a title in GP2 as well as two titles in Formula Renault 2.0 in Italy. He even won that race in Spain in F1 back in 2012 and has shown moments of good pace.
Having serious sponsorship support is a key to finding a ride in F1 these days. We may not like that model but given the expense of F1, it’s the new way of things in the world’s most advanced, and apparently needy, form of motorsport.
Had Pastor not been supported, it’s hard to imagine what he may have done for a living but like me, we both may be asking, “would you like fries with that” had we not had help from others along the way. Regardless, we’re both here and while we may not enjoy large fan support, we do like an elevator compliment and F1 so there is that.
Hat Tip: The magnificent bastards at AUTOSPORT