Maldonado 2016 race seat now in doubt

pastor vergne

Lotus has been in dire straights for most of the 2015 season. Their troubles are well known, and are mostly monetary. They have seen extremely limited development since the mid season, and only brought their new nose to the testing days post Abu Dhabi.

Pastor’s race seat was put in question during these tribulations, but on Sept 20th, Lotus announced that he would be staying on for 2016, along with the 50 million his sponsor PDVSA brings. The Venezuelan oil company had been withholding payment of the 2015 payments to Lotus because the team’s future was in question. They also saw no need to pay up front for 2016 until there was some guarantee that the team would still exist.

Renault’s announcement this week that the Lotus buyout is finally happening, has calmed troubled waters, and appears to solidify the team’s position in next year’s championship. However, Carlos Ghosn today made it clear neither Jolyn Palmer or Pastor Maldonado are guaranteed race seats for 2016 just because Lotus signed contracts with them.

Ghosn was asked by L’Equipe whether a French driver would represent Renault next year, his response was less than cryptic. “We will wait a few weeks. I refer to a meeting in January 2016, when we will explain the organisation, goals, strategy and we will also talk about drivers and partners.”

Renault will certainly have done a deal with the Lotus creditors and those holding contractual relations with Genii which sees them taking at best a haircut on the debt. Further, Lotus deal with Palmer will almost certainly have been based on the premise that Genii continued to operate the Enstone team in 2016.

Pastor has been a vital cash windfall for Lotus, and was similarly a big funding aspect of the Williams team budget. His PDVSA money has contributed around 20% of the teams annual budget, but as a scorer of points in the constructors’ championship, Pastor has been found wanting.

Maldonado has competed in 95 races, miraculously took one pole, one win, and scored 76 total points, averaging 0.8 points per race. Since 2012, he has only outscored his teammate once, scoring 45 points to Bruno Senna’s 31 in the 2012 season. In 2013 he was beaten by Bottas, who scored 4 points to Pastor’s 1.

Renault would clearly prefer a French driver for their car, even though historically that has not always been the case. Yet the name, Jean-Eric Vergne appears to be back on the agenda.

JEV has 58 starts, no podiums, no wins, and 51 total points scored, (ave 0.9 points per race). In 2012, Jev outscored Ricciardo by 6 points (16 to 10), though in 2013 Ricciardo outscored JEV by 7 points (20 to 13), and in 2014 JEV outscored Kvyat by 14 points (22 to 8).

Points are not the only aspect a team needs to consider when hiring a driver however. Marketability in todays world, is equal if not more important than the points one brings. in this sense, JEV is far more marketable for a French auto manufacturer than Pastor despite his big budget.

Lotus have also signed up Joylon Palmer as a replacement for Romain Grosjean, who is off to Has for  year before being offered the chance to replace Kimi at Ferrari. Palmer contributed around $400,000 for each of the 13 FP1 sessions he competed in this year and so he too has the financial support Renault may be looking for.

Mr. Ghosn has also shown himself to be realistic as far as expectations for his newly re-acquired team. “Given the high motivation of our employees in Enstone and Viry, we will take three years to become competitive.”

With this in mind, youth and future development must be a high priority for Renault, which places drivers like Palmer and Vergne in a much better position than it does for poor Pastor.

Unlike Sauber who found themself with four drivers contracted for two seats, Renault will have ensured as part of their acquisition of Lotus, they are not bound to any debt or contractual arrangements previously made by the Enstone team owners.



29 responses to “Maldonado 2016 race seat now in doubt

  1. With a complete and sober quantitative analysis of Pastor’s junior career, combined with his F1 intra-team analytics, there are not many components that one could employ to support any positive qualitative outcomes.

    With full manufacturer backing, the petro-dollars are rendered meaningless. Therefore, Pastor’s remaining hope may sit with the underfunded beleaguered teams. Perhaps a Sauber, or a Force India, as an example.

    As a secondary variable, after his petro-dollars, his 95 GP starts might be of value. A near century of experience helps, but even that statistic is flawed in relation to Pastor as it doesn’t accurately reflect a non-crash, low-mistake consistency that one might expect a driver to operate at with a near century of starts under their belt.

    In the final analysis, Pastor has a Grand Prix win – and no one can take that from him. However, ’twas a strange day the day of the Spanish GP in 2012. Frank’s birthday; Bernie in their pits; a post-race fuel fire… but I’ve no substantive elements to point at – just a hunch. It doesn’t pass the now famous WTF smell test in the same way that Singapore ’08 didn’t at the time. So until proven otherwise, a random win is a random win. He’s got one more F1 1st trophy than I’ll ever have.

    The paradox of a manufacturer-laden F1 is that the money they bring raises the overall quality of drivers on the grid. The issue is, when they get the shits – and F1 becomes damaging to their core business – they leave big holes in the sport. Renault are case in point. Welcome back, Renault… wonder when they’re fucking off again – sort of thing.

    • ‘ Renault are case in point. Welcome back, Renault… wonder when they’re fucking off again – sort of thing.’


    • Historically, manufacture back F1 teams stick around on the grid about twice as long as independent. The recently popular idea that manufacture backed teams are more likely to up and leave is total hogwash. Teams come and go, on average manufacturers stay longer.

      I guess the only difference is the reason for leaving. Independent teams usually run out of money at some point at which point they fold. Manufactures decide that F1 is not worth the half a billion dollar loss to their bottom line and simply stop. (However, in the end it both comes down to the money tap running dry.)

      • Oh, is that so? Interesting.

        I’ll look into the stats. My intuition must’ve been way off given what you’ve said. I suppose the ’08/’09 manufacturer exodus is still relatively fresh in my mind.

        Thank you for commenting on the content of my comment. F1 is enveloped by statistical data, and yet it’s become ubiquitous among the F1 media and fanbase to disregard the numbers and still form opinion. In that respect, it seems I’m not infallible! Haha!

        I’ll look into it. +1


    • in a circus where even a crappy clown gets a chance or 2, Pastor has used up more than his fair share of opportunities IMHO. and sorry Joylyn, but I think the triplets at Manor showed more grit and talent than you (not saying a lot:). let alone the half dozen who I would like to see with the chance to blossom like the Torro Rosso boys.

    • Well if you factor in the cost of a crash test dummy then Renault could still be in the black if Pastor stays,after all it took a few tries to get the Redbull nose through while with Pastors attraction to barriers they might have saved a few Bob 😉 I also wonder about his one win…wink,wink… Given that it’s was Sir Franks Birthday and such I found it very convenient that he managed to win…then in scrutiny the cars data vanished in a poof of smoke..nudge nudge..tin foil hat time 😉

      • I can’t see why people talk about Pastor’s great win this way. He has got speed, he has got guts, only makes more mistakes than others. But on that fateful day in Spain, he got his act together, just like like someone like Vettel or Hamilton have had their days in which they didn’t get their act together.
        And in all honousty, much as JEV is a likeable guy, he hasn’t shown that much in F1…

      • “crutiny the cars data vanished in a poof of smoke..nudge nudge” – the car was parked in the parc ferme, the area is closed off and inspected to make sure the car is within regulations.

  2. Alian Prost was quite active to keep Renault in F1, maybe he’ll try to get Nicolas Prost in the car (although Nicolas is a bit old)

  3. off topic – Renault said they will work with Ilmor in Viry, Red Bull said they will rely on Renault. . . so what’s the purpose for Building9 and that AVL thing now ? Interesting

    • It was a small Red Bull experiment that got blown way out of proportion on here, in terms of the scope of its capabilities!

      It’s also served to thoroughly confuse the newly announced Red Bull engine deal. Whilst the press releases make clear the TAG association is just branding, and Red Bull will be a Renault customer team (alongside Renault’s own factory team) with the usual relationship regarding who benefits most (ie the factory team’s inbuilt advantage) – there are still folks commenting authoritatively that Red Bull will be having their own separate engine development in 2016, which is just wrong.

      Red Bull will suffer the same as other customer teams, in terms of not being able to fully maximize use of the power unit the way the factory team can. Also their power unit engineers won’t be wearing yellow Renault shirts next year.

      The work Mario Illien does will be for Renault at Viry-Chatillion, working on one single homologated Renault power unit in 2016. The rules do not allow Red Bull to add their magic “building 9” panacea to fix all the issues with Renault’s power unit – regardless of what some absurd fanboys would like to make folks believe!

      It’s amazing how the latter have provided so much mis-information, which can be read on any comments section under news stories about the 2016 Red Bull announcement. Although I guess the reference to “Swiss engineering” didn’t help, but some folks don’t seem to realize it’s referring to TAG-Heur watches, as the TAG aviation engineering company is a completely separate business owned by Mansour Ojjeh (sp?) of McLaren.

      • Still off topic, OK, building 9 / skunkworks / area 51 may be under used for a while but consider what would have happened had Renault pulled out and remember that we believe that for a time in Abu Dhabi that the Lotus deal was off. Then in that hypothetical situation it seems likely that RB would have tken over the Renault engine project and attempted some sort of development programme. But here we are, Renault have given the go-ahead and will suupply engines with or without Illien additions and as they ignored him last year they may do the same next year . The consultancy arrangement may advantageous to Renault or be a bit of face saving. So if nothing else the facility at Milton Keynes might have been needed this year and might well be needed for the next RB power unit. Of course I am just speculating but Red Bull must surely have had a backup plan?.

      • yep, i understand all that You said above. I just tried to ask politely if there is any ground for tha tb9 at all, or it’s just pure smoke and mirrors. That would sound quite funny if there is somethig huge invested with no use for it. Unless RBR are going to cook up their own motor from the scratch for the future. And, once FER got permission to stage two different homologations in 2016, can’t this be applied to REN/ILM/RBR/TAG/ETC on the precedent basis ?

    • well, i think someone’s got to ask sneaky Christian eye to eye, word for word what all this b9 is all about. I guess that will be the first time he hears about it(for report), for buddies, thought, he might say something more. It’s lot of smoke here, but somewhere here has to be some fire here

  4. It seems to me it would be the generous and humanitarian thing to leave Pastor on the sidelines in the hope that the Venezuelan government would spend that $50mill on toilet paper for their people.

    • I read this morning that Maduro, Chavez’s successor, was defeated. I’m guessing that Maldonado’s petrol funding just got cut off.

  5. I hindsight it would have made a lot more sense for Pastor to go to Haas and Grosjean to remain. Perhaps they can still do a swap?

  6. I think unless Renault/Genii are prepared to pay back some of the money that they have already used, to Palmer and Maldonado’s backers, then I think both will be in Renault car next year.
    Don’t really see the point in changing it personally, next year Renault will be lucky if they don’t end up finishing dead last the car is designed for a Mercedes engine, and has been botched for the Renault one.
    Like Mr Ghosn has stated, it will take three years to get back to being at a top competitive level, so why stick top drivers in what you know is going to be a crap car, See Alonso/Honda.
    Best if they wait a year then look around for better drivers. Who know’s Palmer may surprise (wouldn’t bank on it) Pastor on the other hand (as nice a guy as he is) needs to start making plans for 2017, as this could well be his last season in F1!

    • Yes, logically it makes the most sense for Renault to do as you say.

      Furthermore, at the time that Palmer and Maldonado were signed for 2016, it had been publicly confirmed that Renault were in exclusive talks to take over the team. If the lawyers for each driver were competent, (or even close to competent), they would have ensured their contracts would span the very likely change of team ownership. We certainly seen signs in the past that PDVSA is very aggressive in protecting Maldonado’s interests from piranha like maneuvers by teams.

      If the speculation of this article that Palmer and Maldonado are out in 2016 is based solely upon Ghosn saying, “I refer to a meeting in January 2016, when we will explain the organisation, goals, strategy and we will also talk about drivers and partners”, then the odds of the speculation being correct are weak.

  7. If they try to cancel one or both of he driver contrats I expect legal action would ensue. The cars would probably be impounded by the courts and it would just be business as usual, Lotus or not!

  8. Please no! Keep Pastor in the car. The racing is so boring, at least Pastor brings some excitement…. Pastor is like the anti-Verstappen. Always excitement when they zoom in on him, just for the opposite reason.

  9. Good article.

    Maldonado – the rest of the stats..?

    OK so you gave 95 starts.

    However, please could anyone shed any light on the following:

    How many FINISHES does he have?
    And out of the DNFs, how many are 1, his error, 2, non fault or racing incident or other drivers fault/ mechanical ?

    There lies the real story, and there is lots of talk but those surely are the interesting stats, can anyone provide?


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