By David Galton-Fenzi
It is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately. You don’t need to dig too deep on the internet to find message boards flooded with vitriol towards the Venezuelan, but why is it so raw, so passionate? Well I think I know the answer, because I feel it too.
Maldonado came into the league branded a pay-driver, yet many of us felt this was unfair. You don’t win GP2 by accident so everyone who knew something about racing knew this was a guy who had speed, someone who could do the job. Sure he came with a lot of money behind him, but so does Fernando Alonso, so we perhaps felt the need to defend him, to embrace him even and wait for him to prove himself, and us, right.
His rookie year was a bit of a disaster, but that was nothing to do with Pastor. The FW33 was a complete tractor, and Maldonado measured well against an experienced team mate like Barrichello. He definitely did enough to justify another year in the sport. Of course he had his run in with Lewis at Spa, but we all justified it by blaming it on his Latin temperament, and Pastor justified it by taking a points finish on a true drivers track the very next day. “See!” we all said, “He can drive, just give him time.”
So 2012 begins and it is clear Williams have built a much stronger car. Pastor obliged by wringing its neck in Melbourne, harassing Fernando Alonso hard only to lose it on the very last lap and throw a handful of points away. Indeed, had he just bought it home he would have scored more points in the opening race than Williams managed in the entire 2011 season. But again we defended him. We don’t want to see them settling for position. Pushing until the last metre of the last lap defines a true racer, and he wasn’t the first to bin it while on the last lap of a race, ala Hamilton at the 2010 Italian Grand Prix, and he won’t be the last.
He was running 10th in Malaysia before having to stop on the penultimate lap with an engine issue, then he picked up his second points scoring finish of his career in China with 8th place. In Bahrain a KERS issue in qualifying and a gearbox change left him down in 21st place, but despite this he was soon racing with Alonso and Rosberg when he suffered a sudden puncture on lap 24 and spun into retirement. It was a season full of promise that was delivering next to fuck-all for Maldonado so far and in the intra-team battle Senna was leading with 14 points to 4, but then we arrived at Barcelona. No-one thought Maldonado’s bad luck would persist all year, but I don’t think anyone can honestly say they saw a win coming. A tremendous pole lap was followed up with a faultless race display to take his maiden victory.
The look of pure joy on Frank Williams’ face was long overdue and great to see, and Maldonado was responsible for putting it there. Heck, he even rescued his cousin from the fire that broke out afterwards by carrying him out of the garage on his back. What a guy! The payoff had arrived, and all of us who thought we knew what we were talking about could say “See, we told you so!” and feel smugly superior. Turns out, we were wrong, as those are still the last points Maldonado has scored all year.
At the very next race in Monaco, Maldonado drove into Perez in another more obvious display of his short temper, which had now clearly crossed the line of what was acceptable. In Valencia it was Hamilton’s turn to be on the receiving end of some dubious racing and the very next race at Silverstone he redirected his sights back onto Perez. For his latest act in Hungary, he was rightly penalized for punting Di-Resta off the track. The chorus of boo’s growing louder each time. Now, everyone makes mistakes, but the measure of a man is how he reacts to them, and I believe Coulthard said it best, live on air, in reference to Felipe Massa forcing his retirement from the Australian Grand Prix in 2008;
"I know I screwed up the same way with Alex [Wurz] last year, and took full responsibility for it, and I would expect Felipe to do the same. If he doesn't, I'm going to kick three colours of shit out of the little bastard."
Well it is about time Coulthard got his arse to the Williams garage on our behalf then, because Maldonado has yet to take responsibility for anything! His reasons for each accident range from “I lost the rear” to “I was a bit unlucky” Doesn’t he realize these are not legitimate excuses? All he is doing is pointing out deficiencies in his own driving while he carries on unrepentant, leaving a slew of unhappy rivals in his wake. Not many people are born with the god-given talent to make a living from racing cars, let alone actually get into Formula 1, which is why it rankles so much when one of them acts like a petulant, entitled wanker. His latest quote after Hungary truly takes the cake of piss-takery; He actually said “I have no idea why I got the penalty.” What planet is he on? It’s as if his victory blinded him to his own limitations and he started believing his own hype.
I’ve got news for you Pastor, the hype stopped in Monaco. We defended you, embraced you, believed in you and when you delivered in Spain we all felt it. I honestly nearly cried. You had proven yourself against the doubters in the most emphatic fashion, but then you took all of that good will, all of that support, and in Monaco you spat on it. Since then, with every subsequent crash and incredulous denial, you’ve ground it in the dust, wiped your arse with it and then, ignoring the screams from the masses, you doused it in fuel and set it on fire. In Hungary you fucked the smouldering corpse.
Now ‘hate’ is a very strong word, but it’s the closest I can get to describing the level of disappointment you make me feel every time you let yourself down. I hate the way you treat the other drivers on track and I hate the way you deal with it afterwards. I stopped defending you a long time ago and I don’t know how much longer Williams can while keeping a straight face. You’re obviously quick, but it takes more than that to succeed in Formula One. I just hope you see the light before it’s too late.