We sat down with the race-winning Venezuelan to discuss the reasons behind his move from Grove to Enstone, his thoughts on partnering Romain Grosjean, and whether Lotus will be able to overcome their pre-season technical setbacks in time for the first race...
Q: Pastor, after three years with Williams was a change inevitable?
Pastor Maldonado: Well, I’d learned a lot at Williams so it was about time to take another step in my career. It is exciting to be with Lotus - very open. I had a fantastic welcome from the team. Now we have to make it work. Sure, at the moment it’s a bit tough - some small problems have plagued us during the tests - but if you look up and down the pit lane there is no one who would dare to say that he is without any issues. We have to be optimistic, grow together and work to make a good start into the season.
Q: Can you explain in a few words why it was no longer working for you and Williams? You scored their only race victory of recent years, suggesting perhaps a permanent bond, given that you both had seen what the other was ultimately capable of…
PM: I always knew when I joined Williams that I was not there for life. (laughs) I spent three years, which was very good - I won a race, which was very important - but then it was about time to move as there was no visible improvement. I was hoping to have a successful 2013 season, but it didn’t happen. I have my personal point of view, so I decided to move.
Q: You were arguably the ‘most wanted’ man on the driver market last year. Lotus landed the trophy. Was that also your first choice?
PM: Yes, it was. They have shown many times that even when under the intense media pressure they had in 2013 they can perform at the top. They were basically the only team for much of the season to follow the pace of the Red Bulls. So, yes, I chose the team. And I have discovered that they are a fun team with fun people - and even fun fans! (laughs)
Q: So you could say that Lotus are a bit of a ‘rock ’n’ roll’ team - somewhat different to Williams…
PM: More tango than rock ‘n’ roll! (laughs) As for other differences, we’ve now had four days working together on the track and that clearly isn’t enough to make any judgment. Williams is a good team. Maybe they weren’t able to show that in the past few years. They simply haven’t been able to put all of the puzzle pieces together. The real differences will become visible when we go racing.
Q: Kimi Raikkonen felt very comfortable here - aside from the financial issues - and that is a big compliment for a team…
PM: But never forget that for all its ‘laidbackness’ this also is a very professional team - and Kimi understood that perfectly. Also the marketing side is more attentive than at Williams.
Q: You are sitting in Kimi’s cockpit. How does that feel?
PM: Like I have a lot of responsibilities - but not only for the team, also for my country. When I won the Spanish Grand Prix it was also a sign for my country that we can do it - and we want more! My job here at Lotus is to do my best to get there again.
Q: You have a very competitive team mate in Romain Grosjean. How will that relationship unfold?
PM: I know him very well. We’ve battled in the past in some junior series and we have both always been at the top. I respect him a lot. I remember some years ago that people in F1 didn’t believe in his talents, but I always did because I witnessed what he is capable of. Every sportsman can have a tough time in his career - as he had - and now he looks very strong and in great form. I hope that together we can both achieve a lot for the team. Why not fight together for the constructors’ championship?
Q: Lotus’s form was fantastic last year, but so far it doesn’t look like they are set for a repeat. Could that mean it’s a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ for you?
PM: Formula One can be that way. You never know - especially not this year. Look at Red Bull: they’ve been winning everything for four years, and where are they now? So it is too early to say anything. Work is the answer. It is true that we have some issues with the engine, but I have a lot of trust in Renault. They have been winning so many races in recent years - you don’t lose that from one moment to the next. So we have to see that we are ready for the first race - and then let’s see.
Q: Isn’t it giving you a headache that the Renault-powered cars are doing so little mileage? How will you get ready?
PM: We need to work and see. For sure, right now the Mercedes engine seems to be the quickest and most reliable one, but look at Ferrari: they too don’t run issue-free. It has been said many times before: the technology is very complicated. Right now we are in a phase where anything can happen. We have to be quiet and focus on our own problems rather than worrying about what others are doing and their lap times.
Q: What’s the biggest difference compared to last year for you?
PM: Clearly the engine. It’s working in a very different way, so the driver needs to refocus his skills. But I also have to get familiar with my new team in race mode. Factory work is not enough. So engine and team are the key for me this year.
Q: Racing has become more delicate. It’s no longer all about full throttle, but also slowing down at the right time…
PM: …especially in the races, yes. Fuel consumption will be an issue - probably especially for Mercedes. But we are all here to learn. Our car is working quite well - maybe we are not the quickest, but the potential is there. The design of the car is very aggressive.
Q: Does that mean that the car is good and the engine is letting it down?
PM: Probably, yes, but that’s not only us. All the teams with the Renault engine are having issues. We would all love to do more laps. But as I mentioned before, I believe a lot in the Renault engineers - they will fix any issues.