8 October 2014
F1: Maldonado ready for step into the unknown
Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado continues the quest for his first points in a frustrating F1 campaign as the season heads to Sochi for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.
Pastor Maldonado is looking forward to the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, viewing the event at Sochi's Olympic Park as an opportunity to finally score points in 2014.
The Venezuelan is languishing with Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil, the assorted Caterham pilots and Max Chilton of Marussia as the only drivers yet to finish in the top ten at any race this season, but remains optimistic that he can break his duck in the four races that remain.
The all-new surroundings of Sochi provide as good a place for Maldonado's dream to start, with no-one having any practical experience of the temporary street circuit other that what they may have gleaned from their teams' respective simulators.
“[Japan] was a solid weekend in the car - we showed some good potential on the Friday, but then we weren't able to show that in qualifying,” he reflected, “In the race, which was held under very difficult conditions, we were able to put in some good lap times, even when the grip levels were very poor. It's a big challenge for a racing driver racing when the weather is like that.”
With surprisingly few retirements despite the conditions at Suzuka, Maldonado could only manage 16th place at the chequered flag, but remains adamant that Lotus can be a threat to the top ten over the remaining rounds.
“We all want to get good results so, of course, this has not been the year that me or the team has wanted,” he confirmed, “But there have been - and there are - many positives.
“Seeing how the team has reacted to all the problems we have faced has shown me many strengths. We have a very clear development path for next season as we have learnt many lessons about this latest generation of car. We have four races left this year, so there's still time for some improved results and more lessons to be learnt.
“We are keeping focused and we still want to get the very best results possible. Even though it's been a tough year, there are still improvements being made to the E22, so there's still potential to get more points before the season ends. We're also as a team starting to focus on 2015 in terms of some of our evaluations at the tracks, so we can get as early a start as possible in terms of information for next year's car.”
Maldonado arrives in Sochi with a limited knowledge of the track thanks to his time in the Lotus simulator, but knows that there will be no substitute for keeping abreast of developments in real time.
“We've been preparing on the simulator, where the track looks very interesting,” he noted, “It's a long lap with some unusual corners but, from the simulator work, we should know more or less what the racing lines will be and, when we arrive on Thursday, we will double check as many things as we can.
“Everything is new and, especially in terms of the surface, there is no way for us to know how the track will develop during the weekend. In the past, we saw situations like in Austin, where the track was super slippery at the beginning and then, session after session, we were making improvements of two or three seconds.
“It's vital to stay on top of everything because parts of the set-up that were working well might hold you back when you go five or six seconds a lap quicker. You can't take anything for granted and it will be important to keep an open mind throughout the weekend.”
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