MAY 8, 2015
Lotus weighing up Crashtor Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado seems to be losing the battle in trying to shake off his 'Crashtor' nickname.
One dedicated website mischievously asks 'HasMaldonadoCrashedToday.com'?, but until now it has been assumed the Venezuelan driver's lucrative, government-backed sponsorship almost guarantees him a place on the grid.
But Lotus chief executive Matthew Carter this week insisted "no driver" is immune from the need to perform in formula one, even though Maldonado undoubtedly helps to balance the budget.
"Pastor's had a bit of an eventful start to his season and his car seems to have a target painted on it for other drivers," deputy team boss Federico Gastaldi argued recently.
Maldonado, meanwhile, insists all the criticism doesn't bother him.
"Not at all," he told Britain's Sky. "For sure, sometimes you are reading it and looking at the social networks, but it's normal.
"It seems like every time I have a mistake or a crash, even coming from other drivers, it's my fault."
Maldonado does not only blame his racing critics, but also "political opponents" of the ruling party in Venezuela, given his controversial backing by the state-owned oil company PDVSA.
"For sure it's a big pressure, but at the same time you survive with it. Formula one is like that -- it's all about pressure, isn't it?" the 30-year-old added.
But some of that pressure may now also be coming from within the team itself, perhaps as it weighs up Maldonado's personal contribution against the rumoured $30-40 million he brings to the bottom line.
This year, Lotus is trying to bounce back from its dismal 2014 season with a top Mercedes engine and a tidy car, but Maldonado is yet to score a single point compared to teammate Romain Grosjean's 12.
"Pastor is clearly helping the team financially," Frenchman Grosjean told F1's official website in Barcelona.
"And he is quick as well. Of course we need both cars to score points, but that is not something I can influence. So I am doing my thing, and no hard feelings," he added.