Pastor Maldonado is a former racing driver from Venezuela whose greatest success was a victory at 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. In total, Maldonado recorded 95 starts in the Formula One World Championship between 2011 and 2015, driving for Williams and Lotus. Earlier in a career, in 2010, he was the GP2 Series champion.
Starting a racing career in Italy
Pastor Rafael Maldonado Motta was born in March 1985 in Maracay, Venezuela, where he drove a go-kart. When he became ready for higher level, Pastor had to move to Europe. It was in 2003 when Maldonado for the first time experienced formula racing as a driver of Cram Competition team in the Italian Formula Renault Championship. His first year in the new environment went relatively well, so Pastor finished 7th overall after he has scored three podiums.
He stayed in the series and with the team for another season and won the title. Maldonado became Italian Formula Renault champion after scoring 8 wins and other 4 podiums. In 2004 Maldonado also raced in the Formula Renault Eurocup and won 2 out of 15 races before taking the 8th place in the Drivers’ championship.
In November that year, Maldonado was given an opportunity to test with Minardi F1 team at Misano circuit and, according to the team owner, his performance was pretty good. However, Pastor had to go a long way before making a debut in the most popular racing championship.
Move to Formula Renault 3.5 Series
The Venezuelan driver progressed to Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2005. He raced part-time for the French team DAMS but picked points in only one of eight races. Furthermore, he was suspended from four events after dangerous driving and injuring a race marshal in Monaco.
Maldonado stayed in the series for another season, now as a driver of Draco Racing. The results were much better and he was among title contenders. Pastor won 3 out of 17 races and had a total of 5 podiums. Furthermore, he scored 5 pole positions and 6 fastest laps before finishing 3rd in the championship, behind Alx Danielsson and Borja Garcia.
Maldonado could have won the title that year but due to technical irregularities was disqualified from the race at Misano after winning it. The team unsuccessfully appealed against disqualification and loss of 15 points proved to be decisive for the final classification.
GP2 Series was the next stop in Pastor’s career
Results that Venezuelan driver achieved in 2006 caught the eyes of the teams’ from GP2 Series. After a successful test, Maldonado signed with Trident Racing. The start was pretty good after Pastor scored a maiden victory in his only fourth race in the series. Later in the season he finished 2nd at Silverstone and was on the way to be among the Top 10 in the final standings. Unfortunately, Maldonado was forced to miss final four rounds of the season due to an injury of collarbone during training.
After recovering from injury, Maldonado in 2008 moved to Piquet Sports team and confirmed that he has potential. After winning the race at Spa and scoring podiums at Monaco, Magny-Cours, Valencia, Monza, and again at Spa, the Venezuelan driver finished 5th in the standings, behind Giorgio Pantano, Bruno Senna, Lucas Di Grassi, and Romain Grosjean.
In his third season in GP2 Series, Maldonado signed with the renowned ART Grand Prix team. The first half of the campaign was really good after Pastor won the races at Monaco and Silverstone. However, in the second part of the season the results worsened and already quite experienced driver took the 6th place in the standings.
In 2010, his last year in the series, Maldonado drove for the Rapax team. That was the best season so far in Pastor’s career after he became the GP2 Series champion. He scored six victories en route to the title and had other two podiums. Interestingly, he failed to pick a single point in the last five races but still was able to become a champion, ahead of Sergio Perez, Jules Bianchi, Sam Bird, etc.
Formula 1 debut with Williams
After having successful post-season test at Yas Marina Circuit, late in 2010 Maldonado signed with the Williams F1 team, as a replacement for Nico Hulkenberg. Maldonado had a lucrative sponsorship backing what combined with his GP2 title looked like a perfect solution for Williams.
However, his first year in the most prominent championship was far from perfect. Collisions, spins, accidents, incidents, and penalties marked the season of 2011 for the first Venezuelan driver in Formula 1. The only bright moment was the 10th place at Spa where he scored his first point.
The first and only F1 victory was scored in 2012
In his second season with Williams, Maldonado enjoyed the best moment in his career. He surprisingly won the Spanish Grand Prix after starting from pole position and being able to resist attacks of Fernando Alonso late in the race. Pastor also scored points in other four races before finishing 15th in the Drivers’ Championship with 45 points.
The season of 2013 was last in which Maldonado drove for Williams. Many were expecting that his progress will continue but the results again were disappointing. The FW35 car wasn’t as competitive and the fact that Pastor had fewer accidents than in the previous years hasn’t helped a lot. The only race in which he collected point was the Hungarian Grand Prix where he was 10th. Maldonado later accused his team of sabotage in the US Grand Prix, so it wasn’t a surprise when Williams parted ways with ’Crashtor’ what was the nickname that Venezuelan driver earned after causing too many accidents.
Move to Lotus
Although having the infamous reputation, Maldonado was able to find a drive in 2014. He signed with Lotus, this time almost exclusively thanks to the financial backing of his Venezuelan sponsor. What he is (not) capable of was seen during the season. Maldonado caused numerous accidents during qualifying and races and lost many points of his FIA Super License. The only good moment was in the US Grand Prix when Pastor finished 9th and collected two points before taking the 16th place in the final standings.
Maldonado stayed with Lotus in 2015 and despite still having numerous accidents his results improved. The Venezuelan driver was in Top 10 in six races and amassed a total of 27 points before finishing 14th in the standings.
Renault bought Lotus team in a meantime and Maldonado was planned as one of the drivers for 2016, but in February it was announced that he will be replaced. Unable to find a proper full-time racing engagement, he signed with Pirelli as a test driver and never returned to Formula 1.