Hulk Smash - as Maldonado signs for Lotus

 


Right then, time to make myself unpopular with many in the F1 circle. Pastor Maldonado and Lotus. A move that many predicted, but few desired. Why? I'd put my tuppence-worth on it being because of a rather good German driver by the name of Nico Hulkenberg. Nico has been overlooked again, and instead the Enstone outfit have chosen the often fiery Venezuelan, Maldonado.

I'm going to attempt to explain why this is a good thing. Or based on what I've read and seen today, why it isn't the worst thing to ever happen in the driver market. Wish me luck.

They say money talks; so, let's talk about money. Briefly. Money plays a huge role in motorsport at any level, but particularly at the very top. It always has, it always will. It may be more noticeable now, it may be talked by more now. But it's always been there, lurking. Drivers have always needed money to get through the ranks and reach the top. It's nothing new, and has been done by some of the greats we now all admire.

The awful tag placed on a driver with financial backing - you know the one - would have you think that Maldonado is nothing more than a big briefcase on wheels. Firstly, I'm not sure that would be allowed under the new regulations (who knows, it may be). But secondly, and more importantly, he's a lot to his makeup than that.

Is he perfect? No. At times does he frustrate the living daylights out of you (and others on track)? Yes. Has he been involved in too many silly incidents? Yes. Has he said some highly regrettable things to the press about former employers? Yes. He's far from a complete driver, but he is a damn quick one.

2013 didn't allow him or his former-team mate Valtteri Bottas to showcase their talent. But 2012 did for Pastor. And in 2012 he won a Grand Prix, and in the process out thought and outpaced arguably the most complete driver in the paddock. The speed is in there, for sure. But sadly there are also a few demons that need to be ironed out. Maybe a look across the garage at Romain Grosjean next year will provide the inspiration to do so?

So then Nico, what's happening? He's been overlooked again and looks set to take a further step 'sidewards' in a sport that's all about moving forwards. What else he has to do I'm not sure. It's easy to 'blame' Lotus in this situation, but there are other teams down the pitlane that could and should have snapped Nico up a long time ago.

Would Ferrari have been better replacing Felipe Massa at the end of 2012 with Nico? Would McLaren have benefited from signing the German instead of a rookie? Red Bull? Mercedes? He deserves a top drive. Lotus probably should have taken him, yes. But so should others. Would Nico score more points over a season than Pastor? Based on the years both former GP2 Champions have been in the sport, you'd have to say so, yes. They've chosen to go with a man who helps cover all the necessary bases for them at the moment, who just so happens to be a previous race winner.

2014 may bring with it great change. Who's to say Lotus will be ahead of Force India or Sauber? The order could be mixed up, things could be very different. We just don't know. What we do know though is that Pastor Maldonado will partner Romain Grosjean for the 2014 season. It's great to see Romain rewarded for his brilliant second half to 2013, and we'll hopefully get to witness great things from him again next season.

Even though I'm pleased to see Pastor sign for Lotus, it doesn't stop me from being highly frustrated with the Hulkenberg situation. He's in very serious of danger of being this generation's overlooked driver. He's been knocking on the door for several seasons, has the support and backing of fellow top drivers, fans, press but seemingly not the people who sign drivers at the very high end...?

I have no doubts that Nico is one of the best drivers on the grid, and certainly the best driver out there without a top drawer drive. But Pastor is no slouch. He's by no means the worst option that Lotus had, like some would have you believe. This, of course, is all my opinion. I'm a fan of both drivers and have been since GP2 and A1GP (yes, that series!). To see them both there, fighting for the same seats is quite odd. They're not on a level playing field, but it's not as one sided as many have suggested.

It's a cruel, frustrating and ruthless sport at times. Always has been, always will be.

Paul Godley - 29/11/2013

Image source (and all image rights): Nico Hulkenberg looking somewhat unimpressed - crash.net/

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