Today marks Pastor Maldonado’s 36th birthday and we at DIVEBOMB thought there was no better way to celebrate than to remember his greatest moments across his racing career. Maldonado, whilst maybe not always remembered for the greatest of reasons, was an extremely capable racing driver on his day; and it is those specs of stardom that we will now highlight.
Written by Aiden Hover, Edited by Sam Stewart
Maldonado is obviously most known for his antics in the world of Formula One, but we must first look at his junior career where he began to make a name for himself. In 2003, Pastor experienced his first season of formula racing, competing in the Italian Formula Renault Championship where he scored three podium finishes and a pole position. In 2004 he would win the Italian title achieving eight wins and six pole positions in the process. He would also finish eighth in the Eurocup. Throughout 2005 and 2006, he competed in the Italian F3000 series and the Formula Renault 3.5 series, narrowly missing out on the championship in the latter by 15 points. Moving to GP2 for 2007, Pastor would truly show his worth. After three non-spectacular seasons, picking up a handful of victories here and there, Maldonado would become a serial winner for the 2010 season. Along the way to winning the championship, he would win ten races – a series record for most wins in a single season. Six of these feature race wins would come in consecutive succession allowing him to wrap up the title with one round still to go – a sure sign that great things were ahead for Pastor Maldonado.
Pastor Maldonado – Rapax Team in 2010
Pastor would be signed to drive for Williams in the 2011 Formula One season. It was in this year that Maldonado would begin to gain a reputation for having incredible qualifying pace. At the Spanish Grand Prix, he would drag his Williams into Q3 to start ninth, and then at the next round, in Monaco, he would again bring his car to the lofty position of eighth and was running sixth for most of the race. Unfortunately, this feat was overshadowed by his collision with Lewis Hamilton, with only five laps remaining. Maldonado showed throughout his rookie season that he possessed a natural talent for ringing all the performance out of a car for that ultimate lap in qualifying, all he needed to do now was transfer this to race pace. During the season, it became a common sight to see poor Pastor drop back from an amazing grid position as a race went on – often forcing him to over defend his position in a desperate attempt to claw back lost ground.
Pastor Maldonado being chased by Lewis Hamilton – Monaco 2011
For 2012, staying on at Williams, Pastor would have his greatest season in Formula One. He started the season well with yet another amazing qualifying session in Australia, achieving eighth. He, unfortunately, would crash out on the last lap following a tense battle with Fernando Alonso for fifth position. Yet again another case of Pastor blowing a good qualifying position with a silly mistake in the race as he had done in Monaco the year before. He would score his first points of the season in China with an eighth-place finish, but it would be the fifth round of the championship in Spain where his season would really kick-off. With his car seemingly on rails, Maldonado qualified second alongside Lewis Hamilton – an outstanding effort from the Venezuelan driver. Things only got better when Hamilton was disqualified from the session for fuelling issues, meaning that Maldonado would start Sunday’s race from pole position. Come race day, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso beat Pastor to turn one, but Pastor would give a good fight allowing him to stay close to the red car ahead. This allowed Williams to gift Maldonado the race lead following a well-timed pit stop. The Williams driver would hold off the fast-approaching Ferrari, as well as Kimi Räikkönen’s Lotus, through the third round of stops to eventually win the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. In doing so, he became the first Venezuelan to win a Formula One race.
Pastor Maldonado winning the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix (Also in photo, Fernando Alonso & Kimi Räikkönen)
Whilst this victory was the peak of Maldonado’s Formula One success, he would finish the 2012 season with some more impressive qualifying performances, notably a third place on the grid for the European Grand Prix and a fourth in the penultimate round in Abu Dhabi. He was also in contention for a podium in Singapore but, unfortunately, retired from the race. In 2013, he was retained at Williams to partner rookie Valterri Bottas for what would prove to be a very difficult last season with the team.
For 2014 and 2015, Pastor would drive for the Lotus Formula One team. This partnership would ultimately prove to be unsuccessful, but some notable events still proved the talent that Maldonado possessed. One such example is the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix where he started outside of the top ten but would rocket up to seventh after an incredible start leading him to finish eighth after losing out to Nico Hülkenburg. An impressive feat considering his lacklustre machinery. Maldonado would also have an amazing start in Russia, slicing through the field from fourteenth to eighth where he would finish. Unfortunately, 2015 would prove to be Maldonado’s last season in Formula One.
His racing career was not yet over, however. Our friend Pastor Maldonado decided to try his hand at endurance racing and entered the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/2019 season in the LMP2 class. He would achieve one race win with DragonSpeed along with two pole positions and one fastest lap with 4 podiums to claim third in the championship. Also in 2018, Pastor would pilot the DragonSpeed team to a fifth-place finish at that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2019, he entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans again with DragonSpeed, but would unfortunately not finish the event.
Pastor Maldonado driving the DragonSpeed LMP2 car at Daytona
We have now reached the end of Pastor Maldonado’s action-filled career and I hope I have managed to convince you that he was more than the crash-happy driver that many assume and portray him to be. Whilst yes, he was involved in a fair share of large collisions throughout his time in Formula One, Pastor was an insanely talented driver who showed how great his pace could be on a number of occasions. If only he had the consistency to back it up…
To read about Fernando Alonso’s career and the tales of what could have been, click here.