Formula 1’s most iconic crasher, most joked about driver and surprise one-time race winner, Pastor Maldonado, announced that he wouldn’t be racing for Renault for the 2016 Formula 1 Season. Years after running out of talent to compete in the top flight of racing, sources hint that the poster boy of pay drivers finally ran out of money.
I wonder if it was money alone that prompted Maldonado’s decision to move on. Basis the trends on the Inside Line F1 Podcast and my Formula 1 blog, Maldonado also lost the ‘joker in Formula 1’ tag to Fernando Alonso in 2015 – nothing could beat the deck chair moment, it seems. Alonso made on-track retirements look just so much cooler!
Maldonado’s ability to consistently find a target on track (either a barrier or another car) or pick up penalty points was unparalleled and his replacement, Mclaren discard Kevin Magnussen, will have big shoes to fill. Not to mention the loss of social media chatter (jokes!) for the Renault team. I wonder if fans will be able to poke as much fun towards Magnussen!
While Formula 1 purists would’ve heaved a sigh of relief, tertiary followers would’ve moaned at Maldonado’s exit. After all, he provided entertainment on an almost consistent basis when the sport failed to do so. If you were to consider overtakes and crashes as the two key parameters for entertainment, at least the crashes were genuine (non-DRS).
Magnussen’s appointment would indicate a victory of talent over money, much like that of good over evil (that’s Diwali for you, the Festival of Lights). But the good part of Maldonado’s overstayed stint in Formula 1 was that he made the sport look safe while notching possibly the best start to crash ratio in the modern era.
As for Renault, in a single move, they increased their safety, reduced their damage budget and might have upped their chances of scoring points manifold – all of which is good for their Formula 1 business. But the one business which will almost go extinct is the website – www.hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com
Maldonado single-handedly defied the truest quote about Motorsport – ‘The more the money, the faster you go’ and in some ways his legacy will be missed. With closed cockpit protection being discussed for an introduction in 2017 itself, Maldonado should have his eyes on being the ‘chief tester’ for the FIA.
And if you thought that we would’ve seen the last of Maldonado in Formula 1, think again. Pastor may have departed, but there’s Manuel (Pastor’s cousin racing in the Italian F4 Championship) waiting in the wings. As for Magnussen, could life have come a full circle just four months after being sacked by Mclaren? His Renault is mostly going to be faster than Alonso and Button’s Mclaren.
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