Pastor Maldonado has confirmed that he will not be on the grid for the 2016 F1 season.
Rumours have been swirling for days that Pastor Maldonado was to lose his seat to former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen, with a formal announcement of the change expected in Paris later this week.
Autosport reported that the French team and PDVSA, Maldonado’s main sponsor, had had a disagreement over funding, which led to their contract being dissolved.
Magnussen was first linked with the team after reports emerged of him being given a tour of the Renault factory just a few weeks ago, in a move many thought was to pressure PDVSA to pay outstanding bills.
The situation between Venezuela’s state owned oil and gas company and the French team, who return as a works team after a few years’ absence, deteriorated to the point of no return in the following week.
It is now expected that Magnussen will be announced as Jolyon Palmer’s teammate in Paris this Wednesday.
Maldonado now looks set to be without a drive for the 2016 season, with only Manor Racing yet to announce their driver line-up. He would not be alone in vying for a seat, as Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto are rumoured to be options, as well as Manor’s 2015 drivers Will Stevens, Alexander Rossi, and Roberto Mehri.
Is it time for Maldonado to go?
Maldonado joined Formula One in 2011 after Williams decided to drop Nico Hulkenberg, despite his pole position at the 2010 Brazilian GP. Maldonado remained with the British team for three seasons before replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus. In 95 starts, Maldonado has scored points on 14 occasions, including a pole position and race win at the 2012 Spanish GP. He is the last person to have won a race for Williams.
He has never been the most popular person in the F1 paddock – Mark Webber recently chose him as the worst current driver and described him as “making up the numbers”. He has earned himself the nickname ‘Crashtor Maldonado’ after his numerous on-track escapades, often taking fellow competitors out of the race with him. There is even a Twitter page, Did Maldonado crash?, and a separate website dedicated to documenting such instances. After five years in the sport, is it time for him to say goodbye?
Maldonado has lamented his reputation for causing incidents, and last season claimed many of them were not his fault.
I saved it! I saved it!
Wait, I’m Maldonado…
*full right steering lock* pic.twitter.com/Sf96rjzrnH
— Tom Bellingham (@TommyWTF1) August 21, 2015
It’s true that in the past drivers been able to completely transform their reputation – just look at Romain Grosjean, once known for causing numerous first lap (or first corner) incidents. He is now highly regarded within the paddock, off to join Haas who were impressed by his experience and his talent, and rumoured to be one of the front-runners for Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari seat when he eventually departs the team.
Maldonado’s £30 million sponsorship deal with PDVSA could be very attractive for Manor Racing, who are looking to finally make the jump to the midfield after years of being the back markers. Their new deal with Mercedes as well as an increase in sponsorship could see them jump ahead of McLaren Honda. However with the falling price of oil and political and economic instability in Venezuela, it seems highly unlikely that the government will be able to continue to sponsor Maldonado.
A welcome return for Kevin Magnussen?
2015 was not kind to Danish driver Kevin Magnussen. At the start of the year McLaren had a crisis on their hands after signing two-time World Champion, Fernando Alonso, as it left them with three drivers and two cars. Despite reportedly having been assured of a drive by Ron Dennis, Magnussen ultimately lost out to Jenson Button. This left him to fill the role of test driver for most of the season before being unceremoniously dropped in an email sent on his birthday because “he failed to achieve the goals the team had set him”.
With most of the grid having already been decided for the 2016 season, Kevin Magnussen looked set for a second season out of Formula One after missing out on the opportunity to drive for Haas and only the Manor seats remaining unfilled.
The Dane was a promising rookie in the 2014 Formula One season, finishing on the podium after a remarkable 2nd place finish in his first race outing.
Former team-mate Jenson Button told Danish newspaper BT in October, “The Kevin I saw at the start of 2014 was a very different guy from the one I saw towards the end of our campaign together.
“He learned so much over the 12 months we spent working together, and he often pushed me to my limits, and even over my limits on many occasions.
“I don’t know whether or not he’s got a chance of bagging any of the remaining vacant Formula 1 seats, but he’s clearly the best driver available, and I’d therefore very much recommend him to any team that has a vacancy.
“He’s good enough not only to race in Formula 1, but also to help a team succeed in Formula 1.”
It would be a sweet (and entertaining) revenge to see Magnussen return to Formula One (and probably resoundingly beat his former team).
Pastor versus Kevin – results comparison
The Renault F1 team launch is on Wednesday 3rd February.
The Australian GP takes place on 20th March 2016.