We should give Maldonado a break

Pastor Maldonado F1 2014

Pastor Maldonado has had a tough year, but we should cut F1's whipping boy some slack.

It's a pretty solid bet that at some point during an F1 race weekend, Pastor Maldonado will find himself in a bit of grief. Sometimes he'll lose it all by himself, sometimes he'll involve somebody else in his antics, but there will always be a moment where he invents a new and innovative reason for his car to be rebuilt.

It's happened with such regularity this season that, for most, it's proof of what has long been suspected: Maldonado is a no-good driver, only on the grid thanks to the staggering amount of money he brings with him from his oil-rich PDVSA backers.

Except saying that might be a little harsh on the Venezuelan. While Maldonado isn't likely to ever be viewed as future-champion material in the same way that Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, or Jules Bianchi currently are, he's hardly unworthy of a spot in the midfield.

After all, he won the 2010 GP2 Series, and if you can win F1's main feeder category and not be considered good enough for F1, then what's the point of even having GP2? A common denouncement of this achievement for Maldonado is that it took him four seasons to take the crown, but the same can be said for the likes of current series frontrunners Felipe Nasr and Jolyon Palmer. Not every driver is a Max Verstappen who can come in and excel at such a young age; some need nurturing, and it doesn't mean that they aren't great racing drivers.

Let's not forget that while he can be erratic, on his day Maldonado can beat anyone. You'll be hard pushed to find people who'd argue against Fernando Alonso's immense talent, and when the two went head-to-head at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Maldonado beat the double champion to victory fair-and-square in an unfavoured Williams.

Of course, sometimes Maldonado's actions are unforgivable. He was once banned for life from racing at Monaco in 2005 after ignoring yellow flags and striking a marshall, with the punishment only going away when Maldonado's backers intervened with a compensation package. He has twice been accused of using his car as a weapon too: once on Lewis Hamilton and once on Sergio Perez just two weeks after claiming his maiden, and only, F1 win.

However, while we might giggle at watching Maldonado appear clueless on track at the moment, every driver can go through a bad spell. In 2011 Lewis Hamilton had his annus horribilis, as did Romain Grosjean in 2012. This year is just Pastor's bad one.

The fact is that Maldonado has won F1's main feeder series and brought home a Grand Prix victory, something only eight other drivers on the grid have ever achieved. He could not have done those things if he was as bad as he looks this year. It's true that he pays perhaps the highest premium of all the pay-drivers to be on the grid, but that doesn't negate that he has strong racing credentials.

Rather than wondering just how much longer Maldonado will last on an F1 grid, maybe we should be wondering how he's going to get out of his rut and back to his old, race-winning self.