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Exclusive Pastor Maldonado Q&A: Podiums will be possible again

04 Jul 2014

Having joined the Lotus from Williams, Pastor Maldonado was hoping to be a regular podium finisher, but instead reliability issues have prevented him from registering a single point. Even more galling for the Venezuelan, his former team have been consistently mixing it at the sharp end.

But far from being downbeat about his situation, Maldonado maintains that he was right to switch teams, and that all Lotus need to return to the front is a little more power...

Q: Pastor, its mid-season - the time for a bit of a summing up. Can you talk us through your 2014 experiences so far?

Pastor Maldonado: It’s been a bit tough to be honest. I didn’t expect all the complications in terms of power unit and engine. I was expecting some more reliability from the engine point of view, but this is what we have right now and we will only solve the problem by hard work. There are still 11 races to go - including this one - so it’s far from over. So we can recover - and we must recover. We need to score points and regain positions in the constructors’ championship. I know we do have a good car - in the past Lotus always had good cars, bold designs - that can achieve a lot if everything is working. Take the last race in Austria: we - like all the Renault-powered cars - had to pay the price for a lack of power.

Q: How do you cope with the situation when you hear Renault saying that they don’t think it’s possible to improve by much this season?

PM: They will improve at some point. Maybe not this year - who knows? What I know is that they are working very hard to fix the problems.

Q: What are these problems exactly?

PM: The lack of connectivity within the whole power unit. The engine is still fragile. There are stupid things that are costing you time and resources. So first they need to improve the quality and reliability, and secondly the power. There is a lack of power compared to other engines.

Q: How much is lacking compared to others?

PM: That’s hard to say. We don’t know what exactly the other teams have - all I know is that it is a big step. And when it is a big step to make it is easy to make good progress. And we are talking about a big step.

Q: Can you talk us through your 2014 ‘normal’ race weekend - with all the hopes, disappointments and glitches…

PM: To be honest, I haven’t had a clean weekend so far. Even at the last race I had problems after five laps - I had problems with the brakes and needed to slow down to finish the race. We should be able to do good races and get good results. Sure, we will not be able to fight for wins or podiums, but between P5 and P10 should be possible for us.

Q: You left Williams with the hope of a better fate at Lotus. How do you see that now?

PM: Yes I left Williams because Lotus was a team that was fourth in the standings with a good chance to be second or third. It was a good team with a good car and good drivers - with good sponsors, a good atmosphere and a good image. At the same time I had spent three years at Williams - sure the victory stands out as it was very important for the team after nearly ten years without winning - but in the end I felt a bit worried last year that they might not improve so much. It was also time for me to move on - to explore something new - and then there came the Lotus chance to make the second step in F1. It is always important to explore different teams - to learn, to see different team cultures and so on. And I have to say, apart from the results I am really happy at Lotus.

Q: You joined the team when Eric Boullier left. Many feel that he was, in a way, the ‘father’ of Lotus’s success. Do you still feel today that he has left a void?

PM: It is difficult to say - I have never really met him. But I would say that even with him gone the team is working really well. Of course there is always room to improve. Even if we are not one of the pace makers here I have to say that this is a team of real racers. There is huge potential.

Q: An F1 driver’s career is fragile as there are so many other drivers out there wanting that break. Are there fears about your future given the fact that there are still zero points on your tally?

PM: I don’t feel fear at all. The team is quite good with me and by now I feel well rooted within the team - so I hope to continue here. My feelings are that once we’ve overcome the engine glitches this team will be again a fighter for the title as everything would speak for that: good team, good structure, good factory. In simple terms, we have all the tools to be successful again.

Q: But the question is: once the glitches are overcome, will you still be there? Sometimes all the blame goes to the drivers…

PM: Let’s be honest: drivers cannot work miracles. Look at Sebastian (Vettel): for four years he was winning almost everything - and look where he is now. And there is not a switch that was flipped and suddenly he forgot how to drive. Having said that, as a driver you need a competitive package behind you. As I said before, we do have good potential for the future. So far I want to continue and hopefully the team wants that too - at least that is what I feel.

Q: So far you’ve failed to finish half of the races and have completed the fewest kilometres of your F1 career at this point in a season…

PM: That’s true - and all of the retirements were down to the engine.

Q: Lotus indicated that they will show an improvement in performance here at Silverstone with new updates. Have they worked?

PM: It is difficult to say because all the gaps within the midfield teams are very small and all teams are pushing hard. Right now we might be on the downside of the midfield group, but if we are able to improve by between one- or two-tenths, that would put us in a good position to fight for good results on Sunday. We need to improve our qualifying pace - that’s our main focus right now. If we could start from P8 to P10 on the grid that would make it much easier for us as starting from the back it is really hard to recover if you are lacking power.

Q: Does that mean that you are satisfied with how the car worked for you today?

PM: Overall it was a good Friday. The good news was that we were able to run a lot in the afternoon - that helped me to forget the morning issues.

Q: But two and a half seconds off the time of pace maker Hamilton is not chicken feed…

PM: Well, the Mercedes are in a league of their own, but from P4 the gaps get significantly smaller. Hope always dies last! (laughs)

Q: What would bring you an emotional high on Sunday afternoon?

PM: A podium…

Q: Isn’t that a long shot?

PM: Why? If you are happy just to finish the race it is better that you stay home. You need to focus on the maximum. Remember, eight months ago this team was on the podium, so there is no reason not to get back there again, even if we don’t have the same power that we had. A podium is possible. It was possible before and will be possible again.