The Ferrari Formula 1 team has to it a mystique and a prestige that gives them the ability to attract the very best drivers in the sport. Ascari, Fangio, Villeneuve, Prost, Schumacher and Alonso – legends all – have at one time proudly pulled on the scarlet overalls and climbed into the most coveted seat in motorsport.
Perhaps it’s their iconic scarlet livery that they refuse to compromise irrespective of the demands of sponsors that dates back to their arrival in F1 at its very inception that gives the Scuderia its prestige.
Maybe it’s their longevity in Grand Prix racing that no other Formula 1 team can come close to. Despite opting not to take part in the first ever F1 race at Silverstone, three Ferraris took the start of the second race – the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix – and it has been an ever present in F1 since, having found itself integral to most our sport’s most iconic storylines.
Most likely Ferrari’s main lure is its success. In its 70 years in Formula 1 it has amassed and unprecedented 15 drivers championships, an unmatched 16 constructors championships and an unparalleled 235 Grand Prix victories.
In short, if a driver finds himself in a Ferrari he’s pretty much guaranteed to be fighting for wins and championships.
Ferrari seats aren’t offered up lightly, and there’s usually a bunfight between F1’s biggest names whenever one becomes available.
Which is why this morning’s news came as a bit of a surprise.
Pastor Maldonado, despite holding the accolade of being Williams’ last Grand Prix winner still largely ridiculed for being a bit of a calamity earning the moniker ‘Crashonado’ in some quarters, has claimed he was close to joining Ferrari for the 2014 Formula 1 season.
Yes, that Ferrari. THE Ferrari. As a driver.
I know! Me neither!!
In F1’s Beyond the grid podcast, Maldonado says:
“Like Verstappen at the moment. Like Robert Kubica at his time. I was the guy at the time. People were coming to me, they were happy to talk to me, and they were happy to discuss me.”
Now, for those of you who don’t remember the 2013 season, ‘guy at the time’ Maldonado was joined on the grid by World Champion Lewis Hamilton in the first year of his Mercedes deal, the then three times world champion Sebastian Vettel en-route to his fourth title, twice World Champion Fernando Alonso, three other World Champions (Button, Kimi and Rosberg) and four other multiple Grand Prix winners.
But do go on Pastor.
“At some point we got very close to Ferrari. I was expecting the move at the time.
“That was my time. It was the moment to have a second chance, not to fight to try to show [my ability] every day, because it was impossible.”
According to Pastor it wasn’t his limited ability that prevented him properly competing in Formula 1 – it was the car – the admittedly rotten Williams FW35.
Poor old Pastor managed just one solitary point in a season spent towards the back of the field whilst Kimi Raikkonen – the man who eventually landed the Ferrari drive – sailed to a race win and eight podium finishes in his Lotus*.
Something Pastor isn’t quite able to explain is quite how PDVSA – the Venezuelan oil company that funded his path to Formula 1, whose cash he used to pay for his drive with Williams and to whom he was contracted – would have allowed their man to drive a car so heavily plastered with Shell branding.
So there you have it. Williams scuppered Maldonado’s chance of driving for Ferrari and with it any hopes he had of winning Grand Prix and (if Pastor is to believed) World Championships and he ended his Formula 1 career two years later without another top six finish to his name.
Funny then that Maldonado’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas went on to do alright for himself.
*Not really a Lotus – it was a sort of Renault thing that they called a Lotus to cash in on a heritage they had no right to. Rant over.