The news that Pastor Maldonado will not feature on the F1 grid in 2016 may be of little surprise to those who have followed speculation closely in recent weeks, but not often has one driver's exit been so celebrated by fans of the sport..

Which is why I'm ready to take the heat for what I say next, so here goes: I'm disappointed Maldonado is out of F1 *brace*.

Allow me to explain - whilst I am under no illusions that the time had come for him to depart, I personally take no pleasure in seeing Maldonado dropped from Renault's line up.

Instead, when I reflect on how one driver has lurched from celebrated junior to being celebrated out of the door, there is a sense of disappointment that his F1 career (for the time being) has come to such an undignified conclusion.

After all, F1 has had pay drivers before (and always will), but Maldonado drew more critics for his wealth when, at one point in his career, he was better known for having a wealth of talent.

In this time, Maldonado has been cast as Formula 1's unwitting 'Pantomime Villain' and, like a 'Pantomime Villain', the role had transcended from a place of hyperbolic treachery to something of a joke. Indeed, Maldonado's on-track scrapes and frequency to run into trouble have become something akin to F1 legend to the point that it has inspired a webpage in his 'honour' simply called 'Has Pastor Maldonado Crashed Today?'

In person, however, it's tricky to take his dastardly reputation so seriously. Ignoring his foibles behind the wheel, Maldonado himself is friendly, affable and polite - more than most, in fact - and his absence from the F1 paddock will be missed for that at least.

Unfortunately, underwhelming results and limited respect amongst his peers had over five seasons stripped Maldonado's worth to simply the bulging wallet of those funding his place on the grid.

It's easy to forget Maldonado once had a blossoming reputation. A GP2 Series champion - his title achieved more dominantly than the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg before him -, Pastor was also very nearly Formula Renault 3.5 champion had a technicality not stripped him of points that would have seen him come out on top in 2006. No driver has ever won both competitive rungs on the junior ladder.

Furthermore, while history is set to remember Maldonado as a pure pay-driver, on his day he was certainly good value.

You only have to look at that 2012 Spanish Grand Prix win, where Maldonado resisted the attentions of Fernando Alonso to claim one of F1's most unexpected 'upsets', as to what he was capable of when the stars (and tyre anomalies) aligned. Alas, for that 'day' to come, Maldonado needed more stars to align than most and it just didn't happen often enough.

Flashes of form aside, 2012 was as good as it would get for Maldonado during his five years as an F1 driver, and even then that 'hit and miss' form would only see him end the year 15th in the standings, the win alone accounting for more than half of his total points' haul over 17 races.

Scant highlights of his F1 career would be a top five in Abu Dhabi and his Singapore GP front row, but it would be tempered - and more - by run-ins with officials and drivers alike over the years. His penalty points tally makes for some uncomfortable reading, not least the hat-trick of knuckle wrappings he had during last year's Hungarian GP alone.

So where did it all go wrong?

For one, it was Maldonado's largely blas? attitude that got many into a lather - mistakes weren't seemingly learned from or heeded and drivers regularly name-checked him as an example, both on and off the record.

He also struggled to garner respect from fans. Indeed, in a sport where ballsy, aggressive driving often wins plaudits, Maldonado's struggle to temper the limit meant he was rarely out of the firing line from those around him.

The fact he came with wealth didn't help matters, earning him a prolonged stay of execution.

Indeed, under normal circumstances, his patchy form probably should have been enough to see him shown the exit sooner - or at least goad him into picking up his game - but for the 'carrot' of a sizeable cheque to wave back. However, it meant with finance removing risk, Maldonado was never seemingly racing on borrowed time.

That said, Maldonado wasn't entirely immune from what was happening around him and you could tell the jibes by commentators and on social media were starting to take their toll.

At the Abu Dhabi finale in 2015 - a race after he was chastised for spinning around Marcus Ericsson -, he pondered whether he was now just being victimised because of his past form, arguing that similar incidents involving other drivers seemed to slip under the radar.

"There are some drivers that are hard on the track, like Fernando [Alonso], and when you fight with him he is very hard," he said at the time. "When I do a mistake without touching anyone, everybody is surprised and this is the news of the day.

"Other drivers crash and have incidents, nothing happens. Look at Bottas and Kimi - two times, but now all quiet and normal. Simple race incident, I have a stupid contact, everyone is 'argh'.

"Stewards have different views at different races. I saw during the year so many crashes and incidents against two different drivers and they were maybe not that hard on the decisions

Ironically, the next day he was tipped out of the race by Fernando Alonso at the first corner, leading him to make a point of suggesting what the reaction would have been if the roles had been reversed...

In the end though, after all the controversy and headlines, it is the loss of that safety net that has ultimately cost Maldonado his place in F1. The plunging price of oil, for which Venezuela relies heavily, and spiralling inflation has shifted priorities to more immediate matters and one might want to look at the bigger picture to suggest that Maldonado's exit could well signal the start of a bigger issue for a sport intertwined with an industry feeling the pinch.

In the meantime though, Maldonado's abrupt demise is still a sad reflection of his time in F1 and it will no doubt pain him to realise he was essentially dropped as soon as the money stopped.

In short, Maldonado came into F1 as a successful junior and a GP2 Series champion, won a race, yet leaves it remembered for little more than erratic driving and as a punchline.

That isn't to say he should get another chance and, frankly, the actual reasons for Venezuela to cut the funding is by far the more pressing priority, but it remains a shame that - despite it all - this is what is left of Maldonado's legacy..



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