In 2011 there are four rookies on the Formula 1 grid. Today we look at one of them, Pastor Maldonado.
Name: Pastor Rafael Maldonado Motta
Born: 9 March 1985, Maracay, Venezuela
F1 team: AT&T Williams - Cosworth
Began karting at the age of 7, winning 4 regional and 3 national championships between 1993 and 1999
Formula Renault Winter Series from 2000 to 2003
European Formula Renault Series in 2003 and 2004
Italian Formula Renault Series in 2004, winning the championship
Minardi Formula 1 test in 2004
Italian F3000 in 2005, running only 4 races
World Series by Renault in 2005, starting 7 races
Formula Renault 3.5 in 2006, finishing the championship in 3rd
GP2 for Trident Racing in 2007, finishing the championship in 11th
GP2 for Piquet Sports in 2008, finishing the championship in 5th
GP2 Asia for ART Grand Prix in 2008-09, finishing the championship in 15th
GP2 for ART Grand Prix in 2009, finishing the championship in 6th
GP2 for Rapax in 2010, finishing the championship in 1st
Career traits: has a nasty habit of ignoring yellow and red flags, occasionally causing carnage.
Maldonado had to wait until Hulkenberg, Petrov, Di Grassi and Grosjean to depart GP2 for F1 before he had a clear shot at the GP2 title in 2010. Interestingly, in 2009 Maldonado's team mate at ART Grand Prix was Nico Hulkenberg, the man Maldonado is replacing at Williams in 2011. In 2009 in identical machinery in the same team, Hulkenberg won the championship with 100 points with a 25 point lead over the next best in the championship, Vitaly Petrov, the current Renault F1 driver. Maldonado finished 6th with 36 points. This disparity in 2009 is the best predictor we have for Maldonado's performance in 2011.
Maldonado should be well outshone by his Williams team mate, Rubens Barichello, the most experienced man in the history of F1. While Hulkenberg managed to stay reasonably close to Rubens over the 2010 season, and even managed to snatch the only pole for Williams during the year, Maldonado should not be expected to perform as well as Nico. Add to this a string of driver penalties and we will see a young man struggling with his dream drive. Pastor's best opportunity is to befriend Rubens and be mentored on how to feel the car, keep a level head during adversity and understand how to develop the car from both a mechanical and aero perspective. If he achieves this, he is set for a long and productive F1 career. If he doesn't, his F1 career will survive only as long as his funding.