Exclusive Q&A with Williams Pastor Maldonado 24 May 2012
Williams Pastor Maldonado surprised everyone - including himself - when he clinched his maiden Formula One victory at the last round in Spain. After enduring a few jibes about being a pay driver, Maldonado was particularly pleased to prove the naysayers wrong, take his teams first win since 2004 and become something of a hero in his home country of Venezuela. He reflects on the Barcelona race and discusses his hopes for this weekends Monte Carlo event
Q: Pastor, the first day of the Monaco weekend is always very tricky as it is a street circuit and we need to build grip. You seemed to cope well with the conditions though .
PM: It seems so, indeed. It was great fun to do mileage here today and the car feels pretty good, even though there is room to improve of course. Its Friday and I am sure not all showed their true potential, but who knows if we did. For this track you have to be wild at heart and I think I am. So I am looking forward to a hopefully successful weekend. They say to make your first million is the hardest work and then it comes naturally. Maybe that is also true with Formula One race wins.
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 its 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 werent 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.
Q: How important was it for your Formula One education to have Barrichello as your team mate? You have now been pushed into the role of leading the team
PM: Well, being pushed into the leader role is a huge responsibility, especially after just one year and for a team like Williams with all its history. So yes, you can say that I got the right education in my rookie year. Now I feel really flattered. It is fantastic to see that the team believes in my talent and believes in me.
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. Its 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 wasnt a new feeling for me. So I said to myself that I had to bring it home. We always knew that the cars biggest asset was race pace so I was confident wed have a good race. But I didnt 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.
Q: How was it seeing all those big names in your back mirror?
PM: It was a good day! We have been working so hard and changed so many things in the team and now we are really glued together. I know that we can still improve and that there is still a margin. But we have to believe in ourselves and the Barcelona result will definitely help us to do that.
Q: What has been the feedback from your home country in Venezuela?
PM: It was holiday time in Venezuela! (laughs) It was a party for everybody.
Q: Are you a hero at home now?
PM: A little bit. Venezuela is a young country but we have many superb talents in sport - not just motorsport - and the government is pushing so hard to support them. I think that my win will encourage others to belief that winning is possible. That makes me very proud.
Q: What makes the FW34 so much better than last years FW33?
PM: Firstly, it is an all-encompassing approach to the car. We now have a Renault engine, which isnt 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 havent stopped since then and Barcelona was payday.
Q: Are you Williams new Alan Jones?
PM: Ha, I dont 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 dont remember his exact words. But there was a congratulations and he said that Id done a great job. He also said that he was quite impressed. To hear that from him was just great.
Q: How did winning feel?
PM: I was so relaxed that weekend. When I saw the opportunity I said thats a chance that you cannot miss, so dont throw it away. I knew that I would not let it slip away.
Q: Last year in Monaco you qualified in eighth but didnt finish due to an accident. What are you hoping for this weekend?
PM: I think it will be very tight and the good thing is that I know Monaco very well from my wins in other series, so I am confident. Qualifying will be difficult due to the traffic, so you have to make the best out of the situation that you have. For qualifying I think it will be better than P8 and I think the same for the race as well. Fingers crossed.
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