Pastor Maldonado believes that it is his desire to win that led to the mistakes he has made on track, but insists that he is more concerned by his reputation as a 'pay driver' that bothers him more.
Speaking exclusively to Crash.net,/i>, the Venezuelan conceded that moving to Lotus just as the team hit a downswing in form has been testing, a feeling no doubt emphasised by seeing former employer Williams enjoying its most successful season for many years.
Even when Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix for the Grove team, it was something of a freak result in an otherwise mediocre season, but the success showed that the former GP2 Series champion had what it takes to win in the top flight, as he held off local favourite Fernando Alonso and Lotus predecessor Kimi Raikkonen to take the flag in Barcelona. Since then, however, he has breached the top five only once, and currently remains scoreless after eight races with Lotus.
“I don't feel frustrated,” Maldonado claimed, “For sure, I'm not feeling happy – this is normal – but I don't feel frustrated. I changed from a good team and now it's not going as expected; this is part of life. Maybe I will learn even more, it will give me more preparation for the future. For sure, I'm trying to enjoy it, even if we are having problems and are not so competitive. I am trying to learn, trying to enjoy it, trying to give my maximum for the team.”
The Venezuelan has long borne a reputation as something of a wildcard, as prone to crazy red mist moments as he is to sublime racing performances, and he admits that it took some time to acclimatise to the fact that he would not be instantly successful in F1.
“I am a fighter, I want to win - I really want to win,” he pointed out, “I've been winning in the past, always, in the junior categories. Not all the races, but in all the races I was fighting for podiums or wins. It took a lot of time to realise that, in F1, it's completely different and I made some mistakes just because of that, just because I didn't accept that I cannot win sometimes.
“I was doing more than is possible and sometimes I made mistakes. When you make a mistake the most important thing is to accept the mistake. I made mistakes but, at the same time, I won races, so it's important to value the driver very well. I am learning a lot and I am 100 per cent sure that, when I have the car, I will be there immediately.”
As well as being labelled as a wildman, however, Maldonado also carries the stigma that comes with being able to buy his way into a drive – something many believe causes blindness to his mercurial performances behind the wheel. This reputation is the one he tries hardest to play down.
“Sometimes in F1, you don't like the people who are supported but, at the same time, you have to look at the past races,” he explained, “I was winning everything, [so] it was not by free that I got the support. I gained the support because I was quick, I won so many races, I am Venezuelan and I'm lucky.
“To be honest, I'm lucky to have a country behind my back, pushing very hard, [but] sometimes it is tough because we were used to winning all races and F1 is very different. We had Mr Chavez as president in the past and he was very popular. There were some pictures with him, so I became even more popular in the news, just because of a picture with the president. For me, it was very important to be recognised by the president of my country [for] the victories and all my work for the job I did, [but] people said afterwards that 'okay, you are the best friend of Chavez, he's giving you the money'.
“It was not like that. He was the president, he had been doing that with other sports and many Venezuelans but, behind this, there is this history and maybe the reputation is coming from that side.”