Analysis: Does Pastor Maldonado deserve his bad F1 reputation?

Pastor Maldonado doesn't usually make positive headlines in Formula 1, but his points finish in the Canadian Grand Prix gave cause to discuss him for good reasons for a change

Analysis: Does Pastor Maldonado deserve his bad F1 reputation?

Maldonado has a bad reputation in F1, and in a world where perception is nine tenths of the law that's a difficult thing to shake off.

Many fans appear to regard him as something of a comic character, principally because they've decided he's a 'pay driver' and a habitual crasher.

It's commonplace nowadays to see Twitter come alive with mock-up pictures every time Maldonado gets involved in another scrape.

And many people also dislike the fact Venezuelan petro-dollars have funded his career, even though having your career financially backed for patriotic reasons is a pastime as old as grand prix racing itself.

The pay driver tag is something Maldonado will never escape, unless he somehow ends up driving for a top team and becomes regularly successful, but beyond the money and the frequent incidents lurks a capable driver, just one who cannot seem to harness his capabilities consistently enough to be taken more seriously.

WHERE ARE THE POINTS PASTOR?

Since graduating to F1 as the reigning GP2 champion in 2011, Maldonado has scored points in less than 10 of the 83 grands prix he's started. His seventh placed finish for Lotus in last Sunday's Canadian GP was just the ninth points finish of his career.

It's true he has a poor scoring and finishing record in F1, but for reasons not entirely of his own making.

Maldonado has retired from 28 of the 83 races he's started in F1 (34 per cent), but 16 of those retirements (57 per cent) were down to technical problems.

Only four times has he retired for reasons entirely his own (spins), so what of the other nine?

Well therein lies the rub. Many of the incidents that define Maldonado's reputation are collisions with other drivers, but (contrary to popular opinion) they are not always clearly his fault.

What could he do, for example, about Lewis Hamilton driving into him in Monaco in 2011, or Max Chilton at the same event two years later?

He's had three accidents with other drivers this season alone, but in all three cases he was hit from behind...

Unfortunately, when Maldonado does trigger collisions the incident usually sticks in the mind - driving into Paul di Resta's Force India while trying to get into the pits in Belgium in 2013, for example, or tipping Esteban Gutierrez into a roll in Bahrain last year.

HAS HE TURNED A CORNER?

But it's not fair to criticise Maldonado without acknowledging the good. This is, after all, the same driver who beat Fernando Alonso's Ferrari to victory in the 2012 Spanish GP fair and square.

That stands as Williams's only victory since the last race of 2004...

ANALYSIS: How Maldonado defeated Alonso in 2012

This season Maldonado has driven well, usually very close to Romain Grosjean in qualifying and sometimes quicker in the races thanks to excellent tyre management.

He's been extremely unlucky to finish only two of the seven grands prix held so far.

"His problems are silly little slip-ups he makes," Alan Permane, Lotus's head of trackside operations, told AUTOSPORT.

"He's quick, he's consistent, he can look after tyres, his feedback is fantastic; his problem is the little errors.

"He knows that and he's working hard to stop that.

"In a very tricky situation [in Canada], doing a long stint, having to concentrate, having to look after brakes, he didn't put a foot wrong.

"Let us hope it is a little bit of a turning point for him."

It's a start, certainly, but Maldonado will need many more trouble-free races before he can leave his bad reputation behind.

MALDONADO'S POINTS FINISHES IN F1

Seventh in the recent Canadian GP actually represents Maldonado's third-best finish in F1. Here's the full list of his nine scoring results:

10th in 2011 Belgian GP
8th in 2012 Chinese GP
1st in 2012 Spanish GP
8th in 2012 Japanese GP
5th in 2012 Abu Dhabi GP
9th in 2012 US GP
10th in 2013 Hungarian GP
9th in 2014 US GP
7th in 2015 Canadian GP

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