Pastor… not a Sunday driver

Pastor Maldonado is finally living up to the years of expectation from all the racing fans, teams and sponsors.  After failing to put together a strong and consistent season in recent years, though never without significant flashes of brilliance, 2010 is proving to be his moment.

Only a premature move to F1 seemed to be in his way to the GP2 title this year, and this possibility now seems unlikely, so Pastor should motor on towards the crown and a 2011 F1 seat.  Bear in mind, he cannot return to GP2 after winning the championship, though I believe he will race in F1 due to his own merit, and not due to the money from Venezuelan oil monopoly PDVSA.

Yet despite all this brilliance, Pastor is evidently struggling with his Sunday race form, where his results have been less than optimal.  As you can see in the chart, of the 77 points obtained so far 65 of them (84%) have been on Saturday.  He has 5 wins on Saturdays and 1 second place, with only 1 podium to his name on Sunday after the Barcelona race.

What can explain this abysmal difference in performance?

Pastor is a fast driver, a qualifier, the kind that needs open and wide spaces to shine.  He works hard to be up front and does his job during Friday qualifying sessions.  On Saturday, he capitalizes on this effort, fighting for the lead and winning the past 5 races.

Yet on Sundays, where he lately starts 7th or 8th and has to work his way up front, he has trouble pushing his way through.  Maybe it’s due to the  many aggressive drivers  pushing to get the few points available that day, or the fact  that those around him are driving around like mad for the quick dash to the finish – while Pastor is looking to score points and increase his tally.  Sometimes he catches a break, but lately he seems to be getting in trouble, finishing down the order or out of the race altogether.

I won’t be the one to cast a shadow on such a strong season or a talented driver, but if I was an F1 Team Principal, I would need to see some more of Pastor in traffic, in battle and driving through the field to be certain that he is the real deal, the full package.  His imminent arrival in F1 needs to have all the boxes ticked, and since it’s highly unlikely he will land at McLaren or Ferrari just yet, he will need to drive through traffic, past slower cars, fight tough battles between equals and come out on top.

Just for once in the GP2 Series, a Sunday race may be more relevant that the Saturday race.. at least, it could be the case for Pastor.

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