Born in Maracay, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado began his racing career in karting when he was seven years old, competing in Venezuela with much success, combining his fledgling career with attendance at military academy.
He moved to Europe in 1999 with his sights set firmly on a single seater career, and after more karting success he made the leap to Italian Formula Renault in 2003 – taking three podiums and a pole position in his maiden season, before taking the title the following year.
This, combined with the financial package Maldonado brought with him from Venezuela, was enough to secure him a test with the Minardi Formula 1 Team at Misano, which in turn led to his inclusion in to the Renault Driver Programme and a DAMS seat in The World Series by Renault for 2005.
It was here that the controversy that would dog Maldonado throughout his career would really begin. Under yellow flags in Monaco Maldonado hit a marshal who was tending to another car, breaking his back, for which he was adjudged to have not sufficiently slowed and as a result received a four race ban.
A second year in the series followed in 2006, driving for Draco Racing, where he finished third in the championship with three wins, only narrowly missing out on the title after he was disqualified from the Misano round for a technical infringement.
Pastor Maldonado in GP2
Despite this, he made the jump to GP2 – the last step before F1 – for 2007 with Trident, taking a win in just his fourth start in the series around the streets of Monaco. However, Pastor’s season ended badly when he was injured in training, forcing him to sit out the final four races of the season at a crucial point in his career.
He remained in GP2 for 2008, securing a drive with Piquet Sports, where another win at Spa helped Maldonado to fifth in the championship, in a series where the guys who break into Formula 1 tend to show their potential pretty early, and drivers who need season after season to taste glory typically find their road to F1 blocked.
For 2009 Maldonado found himself at ART – defending GP2 champions – his best opportunity yet to not only take the title, but to make F1 teams sit up and take note. However he was completely outclassed by team-mate Nico Hulkenberg who took the title with Maldonado back in 6th.
Yet another crack at GP2 in 2010 finally bore fruit as Pastor Maldonado – rejoining Piquet Sports (now called Rapax) beat Sergio Perez and Jules Bianchi to the title, taking a then record of six wins.
This gave him the opportunity to test for both the HRT and Williams F1 teams, after which Williams chose to sign him up for 2011, perhaps less for his driving credentials and more for the £millions he brought with him from PDVSA – Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company.
Pastor Maldonado joins Williams in Formula 1
A poor Williams FW33 and some notable driver errors combined to leave Maldonado with a single point in his debut season in Formula 1 (team-mate Rubens Barrichello scored 4).
His 2011 season will be remembered for an unsavoury incident in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa where he deliberately chopped across the front of Lewis Hamilton, aggrieved at being impeded by the Briton earlier in the session, for which Maldonado received a five-place grid penalty.
His second season with Williams in 2012 began strongly, battling for fifth place at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, before crashing on the final lap & finishing the race in the wall. He scored his first points of the season in round 3 in China before securing a memorable victory in Spain from pole position (Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in qualifying but was excluded, promoting second place Pastor to pole).
But Pastor Maldonado’s demons continued to get the better of him.
Following his win in Spain, he was penalised in Monaco for an avoidable collision with Sergio Perez in qualifying before hitting Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT in the race, crashing into the wall of Champions in Canada, penalised in Valencia for a collision with Lewis Hamilton in the race, and contact with Perez at Silverstone prompted the Mexican to describe Maldonado as ‘too dangerous’, despite clearly showing talent.
More penalties followed in Germany when he was handed a drive-through for causing an avoidable collision with Paul Di Resta, and in Spa he was given three penalties no less, with a further grid penalty in Brazil – taking his total for the season to 14, finishing the year in 15th place in the championship.
Maldonado was retained by Williams for 2013, but an already somewhat fractious relationship began to turn sour when he publicly criticised the FW35, claiming it was a step backwards from its predecessor before accusing Williams of sabotage as he stumbled to 18th place in the championship, directly behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas in 17th.
Maldonado pushed for a move and he and his money headed off to Lotus to be replaced at Williams by Felipe Massa.
There he smashed and bashed his way to a further two seasons in Formula 1 before Lotus decided they could no longer afford the repair bill and Maldonado left to pursue other opportunities outside F1.