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Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams. Formula One Young Driver Test, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Wednesday 17 November 2010. Pastor Maldonado (VEN). Formula Super A, Karting World Championship, La Conca, Italy, 26-27 October 2002. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Rapax celebrates his GP2 Championship. GP2 Series, Rd 9, Race 2, Monza, Italy, Sunday 12 September 2010. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW33.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Podium (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, race winner Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Preparations, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Thursday, 20 September 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 1 September 2012

Few drivers divide opinion like Pastor Maldonado. Capable of both the sublime and the seemingly senseless, he has often won the tag of pantomime villain despite a striking natural speed that has made him a GP2 champion and Grand Prix winner. After four years in Formula One racing, he remains a combative, and sometimes controversial, character.

His ascent into F1 racing, in contrast, was pretty standard. Venezuela may have been the birthplace to only three previous Formula One drivers (Johnny Cecotto, Ettore Chimeri and Ernesto Viso), but Maldonado discovered a passion for the sport at an early age. By seven he was already racing karts competitively in Venezuela’s junior championships; by 14, he had claimed four regional and three national championships.

It helped of course that his father and uncles were just as passionate about motorsport as he was. Plus, there was a kart track just five minutes from his home in the city of Maracay. But Maldonado would have to leave his home to pursue the next steps in his career. In 1998 he raced in Europe for the first time, competing in international kart races, while in 2000 he journeyed across the Atlantic again to compete in the Renault Winter series, eventually taking the title.

A more permanent move to Europe followed in 2003 when he competed in the Italian Formula Renault Series. Three podiums and a pole position saw him finish the year in seventh. A second season in the same series allowed him to hone his racing skills and he took eight wins and the championship. He also competed in the even more competitive European Formula Renault V6 Series and finished the year eighth with two wins.

His success garnered attention in Formula One circles, with Minardi allowing him to test with them over the winter.

Keen to extend his racing experience, Maldonado embarked on a slightly disjointed 2005 season, racing in four rounds of Italy’s F3000 championship and nine in the Spanish World Series by Renault. He finished the two championships in ninth and seventh respectively. It was a difficult time for Maldonado, but made him determined to bounce back stronger.

And the next season proved much more rewarding, with third overall in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series after three wins and six podiums. It was enough to secure him a seat in GP2 for 2007 with Trident. Although he took an impressive victory in Monaco, a fractured collarbone (sustained during training) saw him stuck on the bench for the four final rounds. He ended the season 11th in the series.

After spending the winter resting, Maldonado returned to GP2 in 2008 with the Piquet team. He took another win that year and five further podiums, finishing fifth with 60 points. He was sixth in the championship in 2009 in his third GP2 season. This time he was driving for ART and won two races, in Monaco and Silverstone.

Despite his successes, a Formula One seat remained elusive, so he decided to stick with GP2 for a fourth year in 2010. He swapped teams again - this time to Rappax - and the move paid off handsomely as he clinched the title with six wins two further podiums and a lead of 16 points in the standings. He also broke a record, becoming the only driver to have won six successive feature races in a single season.

The next logical step was Formula One racing, and he was a man in demand during the post-season winter tests in Abu Dhabi, making appearances for both HRT and Williams. His wealth of experience - and productivity at the test - saw Williams offer him their second race seat alongside Rubens Barrichello for 2011.

“I just want to do my best, to be as close to the top as I can and to get the maximum out of the car,” he said. “The team are working very hard and I need to push to be at the top as soon as possible. I am a rookie but that isn’t going to be a problem. I need to keep focused and to do my job.”

Maldonado thus became the first Venezuelan in almost 30 years to make it to the Formula One grid. Chimeri retired from his one showing at the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix and Viso competed in just a single practice session for Midland in 2006. Cecotto participated in 18 Grands Prix for Theodore and Toleman during the 1983 and '84 seasons, scoring a solitary world championship point for sixth place at the 1983 United States (Long Beach) Grand Prix.

Maldonado was hoping for much more in the Williams FW33, but it wasn't to be. The car was far from competitive and the team endured the worst season in their history. Despite some strong qualifying performances, Maldonado came away with a single point for tenth place in Belgium, though he did at least retain his seat for 2012.

With a new technical team and the addition of Renault engines, Williams were in much better shape in 2012 and Maldonado took full advantage, proving his speed by consistently qualifying in the top ten. The high point of the year was his impeccable drive to victory from pole position in Spain, where he held off the charge of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Venezuelan struggled to reach those heights again however, regularly getting involved in on-track clashes and ending up in the stewards' room when he could have been scoring points.

The struggle continued in 2013, primarily against the Williams FW35's inherent lack of pace, and Maldonado failed to break into the top ten in qualifying and scored just one point all season. That prompted a switch to Lotus for 2014, but his fortunes barely improved: in the unloved E22 Maldonado failed to make a Q3 appearance all season, completed the fewest laps of any driver, and recorded just one points finish when he came home ninth in the United States. He stays with Lotus for 2015, with the team switching from Renault to Mercedes power units.