Thursday, April 24, 2014

Will the number 13 be the right one for Pastor Maldonado?

This year's Formula 1 season is filled with a plethora of rule changes from the exceedingly gigantic engine revisions, countless aerodynamic revisions, chassis weight increase, new harder Pirelli rubber compounds to the somewhat insignificant choice of personal driver numbers.

These personal driver numbers will be chosen between the numbers 2 and 99 with the No. 1 plate still being reserved for the reigning world champion, albeit he's not required to run it if so desired, as these personal driver numbers are designed to mimic NASCAR and Indy Cars philosophy of driver brand recognition based upon the driver's career number choice.

And while I don't think its solely related to his personal number choice, nevertheless Venezuela's Pastor  Maldonado's choice of 13 appears to be somewhat unwise, as let's look at his career to date.

Maldonado made his way up the ranks like almost all current Formula 1 drivers do, presumably starting in Go Karts before transitioning to single seaters, where he began his march up  the ladder system in Formula Renault in 2003.

Pastor's sophomore season in the Italian series  saw him crowned series champion on the back of eight race victories - while also contesting the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup series  where he won a further two races.

For the '05 season Maldonado graduated to the Italian Formula 3000 series briefly, along with a short stint in World Series by Renault before receiving a four-race ban for bad driving.

the following year the Venezuelan chose to race in the World Series by Renault fulltime for Draco Racing where he ultimately finished third in the championship, as controversy swirled around him due to a technical infraction that cost him a race victory and henceforth the series' title, yet Pastor had done  enough to spark interest in him for GP2.

For 2007 Pastor signed to drive for the Trident GP2 team, before moving onto Piquet Sport the next season. Switching again to ART Grand Prix in '09 where he was overshadowed by eventual titlist Nico Hulkenberg.

Now somewhat long in-the-tooth in GP2 parlance, nevertheless the Venezuelan driver finally captured the elusive Driver's crown for his fourth racing team, winning a total of ten victories for Rapax, including a staggering six Feature races in-a-row, along with leading Rapax to the Team's championship as well, ensuring his ultimate goal of reaching the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula 1.

In 2011 Maldonado signed for the storied Williams F1 concern, where his car number would be 12, as the rookie driver raced alongside series veteran Rubens Barrichello in the underperforming FW34.

2012 would be Pastor's best Formula 1 season to date, scoring his first Pole position and maiden Grand Prix win on the well known winter testing circuit and home of the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, where 18 was his lucky number, as this is Maldonado's lone podium to date.

Yet the Williams squad went into a funk over the course of the following season where Pastor scored one solitary point for 10th place driving car number 16, whilst rookie team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished eighth at Austin, Texas giving the team an uncharacteristically low total of five points and finishing a lowly ninth in the Constructor's championship.

Interestingly, Pastor isn't the only Venezuelan driver to choose the number 13, as he was actually beaten to the task by Ernesto 'E.J. "What, Me Worry?" Viso, another hard luck driver, who ran the number in Indy Cars for HVM Racing 'Wayback in 'Twenty-oh-Nine, and had more than his share of crashes for KV Racing Technology during his three year span racing for the reigning Indy 500 champions between 2010-12..

As Pastor's time at Williams was short-lived, having stated publicly that all he wanted to do was get out of the team after a rather disappointing 2013 season, as its pretty funny how the fortunes of Williams have improved so vastly this season, while Maldonado's new employer Lotus has had an abysmal season  to date. With rumours suggesting that Lotus solely wanted Pastor for the enormous multi-millions budget his PDVSA sponsorship from the Venezuelan national oil company brings.

So far Lotus hasn't been able to get out of its own way! Having needed to skip the first winter test completely, reportedly due to lack of funds, while the most maligned of the three new Power Unit suppliers Renault has been causing nothing but trouble for Lotus and Caterham in particular with its litany of teething issues, most notably cooling reliability as both Lotuses failed to finish the opening race Down Under in Australia.

Yet on the positive side, both Maldonado and team-mate Romain Grosjean managed to complete  some 40+ laps apiece during the race, the most either driver has accomplished this season, which suggests that the Lotus may be improving.

But while the verdict's still out upon Maldonado's future at  Lotus, driving a black (and gold) car plus the number 13 might just be  two strikes against the Venezuelan's future glory in Formula 1, if Y'all believe in the number 13 being unlucky...