F1 birthdays: 9/3/2011

Pastor Maldonado is the latest in a lengthening line of GP2 winners to make it into Formula One. Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock, Nico Hulkenberg, and now today’s birthday boy Pastor Maldonado. He’s rather old for an F1 rookie, beating eight of the grid’s drivers and only a few months younger than Lewis Hamilton and Vitaly Petrov.
So what took him so long to get to F1? In 2003 he began racing in Italian Formula Renault, finishing seventh. The next season, he won that championship and came eighth in European Formula Renault, also having an opportunity to test for Minardi that year. He stuck around to try out several different series, but didn’t complete a full season for any of them, having been banned from four races in the World Series by Renault for dangerous driving.
2006 brought him full-time into Formula Renault 3.5, where a technical infringement by the team cost him 15 points that would have won him the season (he finished third instead), and then he moved on to the GP2 series in 2007. Pastor spent four seasons in GP2, getting a win with Trident Racing that year but breaking his collarbone to prevent him from finishing the season.
The next year, he moved to Piquet Sports but picked up several penalties for pitlane speeding and passing under yellows, then crashing into two fellow drivers. Yet despite that he still finished fifth. In 2009 he moved to ART where Nico Hulkenberg was his teammate, and finished sixth. Changing teams once more, he drove for Rapax alongside Luiz Razia, and finally won the championship in Monza.
Now, he’s been controversially been taken up by the Williams F1 team in place of his old teammate. Naturally, there are mutterings about ‘sponsor drivers’, and also about his worrying driving style. But he clearly has ability, even if he shows a lack of attention to flags, so if he can drive well then Williams will have been proved right. But replacing Nico will be a massive shadow over him, because if you’ve been a polesitter then you don’t usually get left out of F1 the next year unless you retire. So he’s got to be amazing to get support from fans this year, although I think the worst fallout is over from Williams’ deal.

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