25 February 2011
Williams: Maldonado doing well
Sam Michael: On his first few days of testing in Valencia, I looked a lot at his data and compared it to Rubens and you could see he has a natural talent.
Williams technical director Sam Michael has given new boy Pastor Maldonado a pat on the back.
Maldonado, who won the GP2 Series last year, F1's key feeder category, was confirmed as Rubens Barrichello's team-mate at the start of December, and since then he has already begun to make his mark.
Indeed while some have argued he secured his seat more on the basis of the size of his wallet than the breadth of his talent - the general consensus being that it was the reputed $15 million in sponsorship Maldonado was able to bring with him that had edged out Nico Hulkenberg, Michael made a point of saying just how well he is settling in yesterday, when he was speaking following the unveiling of Williams' livery for F1 2011.
“I'd say that the job he has done in the tests we have had so far has been very good,” Michael stated. “One of the things I liked, and I called Frank [Williams] and Patrick [Head] straight away after the first test, was to say he is definitely naturally talented.
“We did a lot of work with him over the winter and we did some driving [simulation] programmes. But there is nothing like being in the actual car and driving. On his first few days of testing in Valencia, I looked a lot at his data and compared it to Rubens and you could see he has a natural talent.”
Despite his endorsement of him though, Michael knows Maldonado faces a stiff learning curve in his first season in the top flight: “He will make a few mistakes and have a few crashes. Every rookie does,” Michael continued.
“But the one thing I am quite impressed by, probably because he is 25-years-old and five years older than most other rookies when they come into the sport, is he has got a level of maturity that is higher. That is quite encouraging.
“The other thing I would say is, on his set-up direction, he is very similar to Rubens. I think that also comes from his maturity and experience in the lower categories he has been working in. He has had very good training.
“But let's be clear, and Pastor knows this as well, Rubens is the key driver for the direction of the car, because of all of his experience. Pastor will never match that.
“His main thing is to try and learn as much as he can from him. Rubens contributes the most to where the car is going, the aero platform, the set-up and what we are working on. But it is very, very encouraging for me to see Pastor reflecting Rubens comments so quickly in terms of what the car is doing,” Michael summed-up.
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