Tag Archives: Pastor Maldonado

Palmer to partner Maldonado in 2016

Lotus F1 Team this evening announced that their reserve driver Jolyon Palmer will race for them alongside Pastor Maldonado in 2016.

The Briton, who has been Lotus’ reserve driver since January after winning the GP2 Championship, drove for the team in Free Practice One sessions this season.

“We are very pleased to announce that exciting British racing talent Jolyon Palmer is promoted to a race seat with the team for next season,” said Gerard Lopez, Lotus Team Principal.

“We’ve seen Jolyon’s hard work and talent this season in the way he’s approached his third driver role and he is a really popular choice for the team.

“As well as having a great future ahead of him behind the wheel, Jolyon is an intelligent and highly marketable asset to the team. He deserves this opportunity, and everyone at Enstone is excited to see what he can achieve next year.”

Palmer said: “I’m obviously delighted that I’ll be racing in Formula 1 next year. Lotus F1 Team gave me a tremendous opportunity this season and I thank them for assisting my development to a level where they have put their trust in me for a crucial season in their evolution.

“I’ve enjoyed and learnt a lot from my year as Third and Reserve driver so I’m looking forward to putting this into practice as a race driver in 2016. I can’t wait for next season to get underway!”

The 24-year-old, the first British GP2 Champion since reigning F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton in 2006, fills the vacancy left by Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman announced earlier this month that he was to race for rookie team Haas in 2016, having raced for Lotus since 2012.

Pastor Maldonado, who brings approximately $27m of sponsorship a year to Lotus from Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, has been retained by the team despite criticisms of his driving ability.

Image courtesy of Lotus F1 Team.


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Gutierrez Penalised For Maldonado Crash

Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez has been handed a three-place grid penalty for his part in a crash with Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado during yesterday’s British Grand Prix.

The pair, who famously came together at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this season, made contact during an overly ambitious overtake by Gutierrez who outbraked himself, before hitting and launching the Lotus. Stewards placed the blame with Gutierrez, who retired from the race due to damage sustained in the collision, and handed him a three-place grid drop for the upcoming German Grand Prix.

Gutierrez felt that Maldonado was partly to blame as he did not leave him enough room to make an overtake, as per the regulations. “After the restart I was fighting with Pastor (Maldonado). When I tried to overtake him in turn 16 he braked and did not leave me enough space. I was already beside him and could not avoid a collision with him.”

Maldonado saw the lighter side and commented on how he was told the crash looked “spectacular”, and said that the team were not sure if the crash led to his retirement on the penultimate lap, but did add that the rear wing was moving around more than usual, so there must have been some damage to his car.

Gutierrez took a ten place grid penalty at the British Grand Prix also as a result of an unsafe release at the preceding Austrian Grand Prix.

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Vettel Quickest As Mercedes Avoid Rain-Affected Practice

The rain came down on the Silverstone circuit before the third practice session got underway, leaving teams sheltering in their garages and hoping that the track would dry itself. In the first fifteen minutes, no one circulated for a timed lap, but Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton all did installation laps, the latter conducting practice starts at the end of the pitlane.

Finally, Marcus Ericsson led Kamui Kobayashi across the line to record first and second, before being beaten by the Toro Rosso duo and split by the Marussia of Jules Bianchi. Daniil Kvyat had a big sideways moment coming out of the final corner but skilfully held control of the STR9 and stayed out of the wall. Romain Grosjean came a lot closer to tearing the nose cone off his car when he lost control out of the same corner and spun sideways across the line, while setting the second fastest lap. He too managed to regain control, with a few inches to spare, and went on his way.

Daniel Ricciardo jumped to the top of the timesheets when he set his first lap, and was then beaten by Vettel, also on his first lap. Lewis Hamilton came out to exert his dominance, and was half-a-second up on Vettel’s time until he went wide at Stowe corner, to the chuckles of team-mate Nico Rosberg in the garage.

Jules Bianchi made the same mistake a few minutes later, but at a much higher speed, and skidded into the tyre barriers at the end of hangar straight, ending his session prematurely. Adrian Sutil did a similar thing, too, but just about managed to get the car turned and out of the gravel.

Bottas, a driver who usually excels in the wet conditions, was the next to take to the track for the first time and went seventh provisionally. Jenson Button, a driver who also performs best in the wet, then put in a lap to also go seventh.

The rain had stopped by the time the session came towards the end, but the remaining water proved enough to catch a few drivers out – such as Sergio Perez who locked his tyres up into Stowe corner, or Nico Hulkenberg who suffered a nasty twitch which sent him wide at the old pit straight.

Although the two Red Bull drivers ended the session fastest, the two Mercedes drivers didn’t record a time, meaning this session is not representative. The Mercedes speed over Red Bull, before pitting, was strong enough to suggest yet another Mercedes 1-2 lockout in Qualifying – but will it be Hamilton or Rosberg who takes the glory?

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Pastor Maldonado
  4. Romain Grosjean
  5. Adrian Sutil
  6. Daniil Kvyat
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Valtteri Bottas
  10. Kimi Raikkonen
  11. Jean-Eric Vergne
  12. Felipe Massa
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Esteban Gutierrez
  15. Sergio Perez
  16. Marcus Ericsson
  17. Jules Bianchi
  18. Kamui Kobayashi

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images. 

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Maldonado On Top For Lotus In Barcelona

The F1 circus remained at the Circuit de Catalunya today as the second day of the second in-season test got underway. At least, it got underway for everyone excluding Caterham who announced that they would not take part due to the damage sustained in Kamui Kobayashi’s crash on Tuesday.

Of the ten remaining cars, it was Lotus’s E22 that went fastest today, piloted by Pastor Maldonado. The team praised their “trouble-free and extremely productive” test which saw them complete 102 laps and set a fastest lap of 1.24.871. Nico Rosberg finished second for Mercedes and his run included testing the team’s trial ‘megaphone’ exhaust system, but after also setting 102 laps, the German reported that: “Just tried the new exhaust system, but [it] didn’t work out. [It] didn’t make it much louder. We’re pushing for another solution”. 

Kimi Raikkonen was back in the car for Ferrari and his 94-lap test followed yesterday’s short run where he completed a mere 20. The Finn was followed by Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez had his run interrupted by a powertrain problem, but Test Engineer, Paul Russell, insisted that this did not cost the team too badly. He ended his running in fourth, over two seconds behind Maldonado’s quickest time – although Gutierrez did not sample the super-soft tyre compounds.

Susie Wolff was one of the few to test the quicker Pirelli tyres, but her running was limited following a red flag-prompting spin at turn 11 about an hour into her run. Despite the unplanned break, Wolff completed her run plan by lunchtime, leaving the afternoon session to just familiarise herself with the car.

Jules Bianchi was sixth for Marussia who topped the timesheet with Chilton on day one (although his super-soft fastest time was 1.6s behind that set by Maldonado today). His lap time was a second behind that of his team-mate, although he did not use the softer and quicker tyres.

Sebastian Vettel was in the car for Red Bull and took the team to seventh as they again focused on the development of the car instead of setting fastest laps. Their development was limited, however, as a gearbox repair from yesterday spilled over into today and delayed the start of their testing. Vettel looked positive and reported: “We did a lot of laps which, considering the time we had, was good. I would say it was a useful, if not perfect, day.”

Force India test driver Daniel Juncadella took the VJM07 out today but hit the barriers at turn 4, which, obviously, limited his track action. Nonetheless, Chief Engineer Tom McCullough said: He gave useful feedback on the tyres and general car performance,” and concluding that, “overall it was a successful test”. McLaren also ran their test driver Stoffel Vandoorne today, and his 136 lap run proved to be the longest run of any team this test. Daniil Kvyat was tenth for Toro Rosso and caused two red flags through his 21 lap run.

Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.24.871 102 laps
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.25.805 102 laps
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.26.480 94 laps
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1.26.972 85 laps
Susie Wolff Williams 1.27.280 55 laps
Jules Bianchi Marussia 1.27.718 56 laps
Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.27.973 73 laps
Daniel Juncadella Force India 1.28.278 91 laps
Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1.28.441 136 laps
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.28.910 21 laps

Image courtesy Lotus F1 Team.


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Drawing parallels – the Ricciardo & Maldonado penalties

Yesterday I wrote a blog on my thoughts on the Pastor Maldonado/Esteban Gutierrez crash and the consequences of same. In that blog I tried to explain why Maldonado had not been given a race ban, as many had called for after the crash. A surprising amount of people who read the blog responded in support of my argument – but a lot more still complain about the harsh penalty awarded to Ricciardo a week beforehand, and how unfair it was.

During the Malaysian Grand Prix a week ago, Ricciardo was let out of his pit box without the front left tyre being properly attached. As reversing down the pitlane is an automatic disqualification, Ricciardo was left sitting in his car as he waited for his team to run to him, pull him back to his pit box and properly attach the wheel. Ricciardo was subsequently awarded a ten second stop/go penalty to be served during the race and a ten-place grid penalty for the next Grand Prix. He was completely blameless for the incident, which put no one in danger, and yet when Maldonado T-boned Esteban Gutierrez during the Grand Prix yesterday, causing the Sauber to flip twice, he was given a mere five place grid penalty.

Ricciardo is pushed down the pitlane after an error saw him released with an unattached wheel. Picture (c) Red Bull/Getty Images

Ricciardo is pushed down the pitlane after an error saw him released with an unattached wheel. Picture (c) Red Bull/Getty Images

The stewards follow a rule book. When you see the graphic on your TV screen announcing that “the driver of car X is under investigation for causing Y”, the stewards are going to the rule book to see which rules have been broken, and what the pre-determined penalty for that infringement is. It’s exactly the same as a team who make adjustments to a car while it’s in Parc Fermé after Qualifying: an automatic removal of Qualifying time and a mandatory pit-lane start are given. Each infringement has it’s own punishment.

I’ll admit that Ricciardo’s punishment was incredibly harsh, especially as he was faultless in the incident, but although I felt sorry for Ricciardo, it’s a punishment I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

As part of the new rules brought in this year, a mandatory ten-place grid drop was introduced for any driver who was the subject of an unsafe release. Every two or three races we would see a driver drive off without a wheel or drive straight into the path of another driver in the pitlane due to mistakes by their pit crew: Michael Schumacher in China 2012, Robert Kubica in Japan 2010, Jenson Button in Silverstone 2011, Kubica and Sutil in Hungary 2010 to name but a few recent incidents. Pitlanes have always been dangerous places to stand, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was Mark Webber’s loose wheel striking an FOM cameraman in the pitlane at the German Grand Prix last year. The cameraman was lucky to escape with his life after taking a direct hit from the 16kg Pirelli as it bounced between Lotus mechanics and hit him in the back. He was airlifted to hospital but fortunately made a full recovery.

The ten-place grid penalty was as a direct result of this incident as the FIA grew concerned that the teams could cut corners on safety in the name of saving a split second during a pit stop. The idea behind the rule is to make sure that the pit crew take a split second more to make sure that the car is ready to go before giving the all clear.

So, of course, I feel angry that Ricciardo can have two races ruined as a result of something he was blameless in, but the rule is brought in purely to ensure that the drivers, mechanics and anybody else in the pitlane or trackside are kept safe. The radical post-Imola ’94 changes to safety brought about by Dr Sid Watkins and his men, as well as the work of Jackie Stewart and other drivers who were subjected to ridicule for their obsession with making Formula One safer, would be made completely redundant if something as easy as double checking a wheel nut was ignored, leading to a wheel striking and killing somebody.

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Where’s The Consistency?

Gutierrez leads Maldonado mid-race. Photo (c) Sauber Motorsport AG

Gutierrez leads Maldonado mid-race. Photo (c) Sauber Motorsport AG

Pastor Maldonado heads to the Chinese Grand Prix with a five place grid penalty and three points on his racing license as a result of a crash with Esteban Gutierrez during today’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

My first reaction to the news was to complain about the stewards on Twitter for their complete inconsistency (inconsistent stewards, what’s new there?). Think about it though: In Malaysia, Daniel Ricciardo was released from his pit box without a wheel properly attached to his car. Besides the one lap he lost while the team recovered the car and properly attached the wheel, he was then given a ten second stop/go penalty, as decided by the new regulations brought in to ensure a team doesn’t skimp on safety in the rush to get the car going again and cause an incident like Mark Webber’s wheel striking an FOM cameraman in Germany last year. Ricciardo was subsequently handed a ten place grid penalty for Bahrain. He was severely punished for something he had no control over.

Then today we saw a driver drive straight into the side of another driver and cause that driver to do two complete sideways flips before being hospitalised for precautionary checks, and yet the guilty party only gets a stop/go penalty (in a race where he was far from points anyways) and a mere five-place grid penalty. When I saw the crash, and the camera zoomed in on Gutierrez, he was motionless inside the car for at least seven or eight seconds. I’m not trying to over emphasise things when I say that I really thought Gutierrez was in serious trouble. The last time I thought that was when Fernando Alonso stayed, also motionless, in his car after the huge shunt at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix. That time, the Lotus driver at fault was given a race ban. Luckily this time, as with Alonso in 2012, Gutierrez was merely catching his breath and probably trying to figure out what had just happened, before climbing out of the car and being taken to the medical centre. As I already mentioned, he was then shipped to a local hospital for further checks.

Although I tweeted that Maldonado should be given a race ban, I’ve calmed down and thought about it from the stewards point of view. I know that people reading this may disagree, but I half support the stewards on this one (I know, way to sit on the fence, Ben). Hear me out.

Ignoring Pastor Maldonado’s pretty bad track record (excuse the pun), look at the incident. It’s not like Maldonado aimed his car at Gutierrez, with a red mist descending over his eyes, muttering, in Venezuelan, ‘lets see how many times I can flip this guy over’. The fact of the matter is, it was a very unfortunate incident, for both drivers. Maldonado was coming out of the pitlane and would have been running on a very cold set of tyres – meaning his braking would be affected due to lack of grip. So Maldonado went into the corner racing the Sauber, as I’m sure any driver would do, but was caught out by the lack of grip. On top of that, Gutierrez probably closed the door on Maldonado, or failed to realise how close the Lotus actually was to him, and cut Maldonado off.

Another situation like this that springs to mind was the Schumacher/Senna crash in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. In that race, Schumacher was coming out of the pits on fresh tyres and came up behind Senna into T1. Senna weaved and Schumacher presumed he was letting him through, as Bruno was yet to pit and was suffering on old tyres, but Senna moved back to take the corner and the two collided in spectacular fashion. Schumi was given the blame and awarded a – wait for it – five place grid penalty for the next race. Quite similar, aren’t they? And, ironically, Maldonado won that race.

Think about how you’d view the incident if it wasn’t Maldonado involved. Let’s say that Ricciardo, for example, had caused the crash with Gutierrez. Would you be calling for a race ban? I don’t think so. Meanwhile, Maldonado caused the crash with Gutierrez and there was a universal cry for a race ban. Between the people who tweeted me today and commented on my Facebook page, everyone seems to agree that he deserved a race ban for the incident. Like I said, I did too until I sat down and thought about it.

Of course, his track record stands against him. Lets not forget how Maldonado maliciously rammed Perez into the barriers in Monaco during FP3 – causing damage that caused him to crash a few corners later, and causing hidden damage that contributed to Perez’s horrible crash during Qualifying where he hit the TecPro barriers outside the tunnel and needed to hospitalised. And later that season, how he did the same to Hamilton during Qualifying for the Belgian GP after Lewis pushed past him. On the next lap, Maldonado pulled alongside the Briton before darting across Hamilton and damaging the front of his car.

Now, this is where my indecision is. Although I think a race ban would be a bit too extreme, I think the stewards should have looked to his record and given him something a bit more serious – maybe a ten place grid penalty and six penalty points. But, like I said, I wholeheartedly believe that the crash was down to a slightly over-ambitious overtaking manoeuvre, rather than a malevolent intention. Of course, if Maldonado does something similar this season then a race ban should be considered. He should learn from this experience.

I think the Pastor Maldonado that we have now has matured since 2012 and, to be fair, he had a very clean record in 2013. A lot like how his new team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was the cause of the 2012 Belgian GP crash and the recipient of the first race ban since 1994 for causing that crash, has matured. Underneath the bad reputation is a talented racer who is trying to help his team recover from their poor start this season.

That’s my two cents on the matter. Please feel free to give me yours – comment below or send me a tweet @BenSweeneyF1.


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