Maldonado's mishaps: From spins to shunts, chronicling Pastor's 2014 plight
A rundown of the Lotus driver's incidents at the first five GPs
By Sky Sports Online. Last Updated: 16/05/14 12:36pm
It's fair to say that Pastor Maldonado Lotus career hasn't got off to the best of starts five races in to the 2014 season.
The Venezuelan driver's winter switch from Williams - which he assuredly described at the time as "the best decision ever" - has yet to yield a single point, with his campaign so far having been dogged by a succession of on-track mishaps and misdemeanors.
After picking up his fourth penalty point of the year at the Spanish GP, here's a race-by-race rundown of his 2014 tale of woe:
Australian Grand Prix
What happened? The Melbourne season-opener proved a completely forgettable weekend for Lotus with the then evil-handling Renault-powered E22 consigning the previous year's race winners to the back row of the grid.
Having completed only 17 laps in practice, Maldonado went out towards the end of Q1 for an all-or-nothing run on slick tyres on the wet track, with predictable results. He first spun off into the gravel under braking for Turn Three before running straight on at the same corner one lap later.
Pastor said: "It was a power unit related issue which meant we were so late to the track. By that time it started to rain, and then, that's it!"
Malaysian Grand Prix
What happened? Having managed to qualify under the E22's own steam at Sepang, albeit not progressing beyond Q1, Maldonado was hit by the Marussia of Jules Bianchi as they battled for position into Turn Four on the first lap.
On this occasion, the Venezuelan was judged to be the innocent party in the clash, with Bianchi handed a five-second stop-go penalty and issued with two penalty points. After his Lotus spun off the road, Maldonado rejoined the fray but his race lasted just seven laps before more power unit problems intervened.
Pastor said: "Today obviously was not so good for me, but we're not the only ones with issues so early in the season."
Bahrain Grand Prix
What happened? More visually spectacular than anything else, Maldonado underlined his reputation as a hard-charging driver when his E22 briefly went airborne as he ran wide over the Sakhir circuit's new raised kerb at Turn Four. The Lotus's two front wheels came back down to earth with a hefty whack, with various small bits of carbon fibre falling off the car.
Pastor said: "I made a little mistake in the evening session and we took quite a bit of air after jumping the kerb. Fortunately, not too much damage was done and we could continue the session."
What happened? The most dramatic - and frightening - incident of them all. Exiting the pitlane but reaching the braking zone for Turn One at the same time as Esteban Gutierrez, Maldonado steamed into the side of the Sauber with the force of the impact flipping the young Mexican's car upside down.
The stewards issued a three-pronged punishment for Pastor: a ten-second stop/go penalty, three penalty licence points and a five-place grid drop for the next race in China. Some, however, felt that Maldonado still got off relatively lightly.
Pastor said: "We will need to have a look again at what happened as Esteban seemed to be off his line coming into turn one - maybe he missed his braking point, I don't know - and by then I was in the corner with nowhere to go."
Chinese Grand Prix
What happened? As nightmare weekends go, Pastor Maldonado will probably hope the 2014 Chinese GP represents his F1 nadir. The first of two embarrassing Friday incidents occurred in P1 when, on an out-lap at the start of the session, Maldonado, looking down at his E22's steering wheel at the time, suddenly lost control of his car and slewed across the run-off area after incorrectly turning right instead of left.
Worse, however, was still to come...
Pastor said: "I was on the steering wheel. [There is] too much to do in the out laps, after out laps it's okay."
What happened? He's not the first driver to come a cropper in the twisty Shanghai pit entry road - step forward Lewis Hamilton - but Maldonado managed to go one better than the 2008 World Champion when he crashed into the wall after carrying too much speed.
The impact wrecked his car's nose and front-right suspension and sidelined the former Williams driver for the remainder of P2. He didn't have a chance to atone for his gaffes on Saturday after more unreliability with his E22 kept him out of qualifying.
Pastor said: "The incident this afternoon was a mistake from my side; I was a little optimistic on the entry to the pits, and the run off is quite short, but that's how it is. It's a tricky part of the track and we've seen incidents there before."
Spanish Grand Prix
What happened? Maldonado maintained his record of being involved in incidents at every grand prix held so far this season with another knock-out blow in qualifying at Barcelona. At the start of Q1, the 29-year-old, who had shown promising pace throughout practice in the improved E22, ran wide rounding the long Turn Three and spun into the outside wall, crumpling the right-front of the car.
It meant that, for the third time in five races, Maldonado failed to set a qualifying time, although the stewards once more gave him dispensation to race after showing sufficient speed in practice.
Pastor said: "The cars are a bit more difficult to control but it's not bad. I'm quite happy, to be honest, because I do like to fight the car. I'm quite happy, a bit disappointed about what happened today, but there is a clear improvement on the car."
What happened? Eyeing a fast start from his now customary starting position at the back of the grid, it took just 11 corners of the race for Maldonado to run into more trouble with the stewards after clouting Marcus Ericsson's left-front wheel in an optimistic overtaking move at Turn 11.
A five-second stop/go penalty and a fourth penalty point of 2014 compounded another ultimately frustrating weekend.
Pastor said: "Today's result is a bit disappointing but my race had been already compromised by starting at the back the grid. At least we saw the chequered flag."