It was expected, and now it is confirmed: Lotus has announced that Pastor Maldonado will join the team in 2014 alongside current driver Romain Grosjean.
The seat Maldonado now occupies was the most hotly contested of the entire silly season, which began with the confirmation that Mark Webber would be leaving the sport at the end of 2013.
Maldonado, along with Nico Hulkenberg, were the two most likely candidates for the seat, though money was the sticking point in the decision. Lotus announced earlier this year that they would be partnering with a Middle Eastern consortium known as Infinity Racing. The company changed its name to Quantum Motorsports soon after, but the money promised to the team never came. Since early this fall the proposed 35 percent stake in the team Quantum was supposedly buying was being seriously doubted, up to the point that Nico Hulkenberg was effectively out of the running for the seat weeks before the season concluded.
Should the deal have come through you would now be reading a wonderful story about the dream partnership of Hulkenberg and Lotus. But since money does the talking in modern Formula One, we are here to talk about Maldonado.
The Venezuelan is not without talent. You don’t win a GP2 title without it. But there is nothing from his junior career, much less his Formula One career, to suggest he is the next champion-in-waiting. His win in Spain in 2012 wasn’t a fluke, if extremely out of the ordinary, so there is hope for him there. But if you look at his performances in 2013 you wouldn’t want to put him in a top team anytime soon.
The decision, however, is all about money. There is no question about that, and if you were to be a fly on the wall in Lotus’ decision-making rooms you would undoubtedly witness many hesitant team members half-heartedly agreeing that Maldonado was the team’s only savior. For the team did indeed need saving. They were on the brink of shutting down with their financial woes, while highly documented, all too accurate.
With Maldonado in the team Lotus have a reliable and steady income. In Romain Grosjean they have a driver capable of wins and championships. That much will not be disputed after his phenomenal performances in the latter half of the 2013 season. One can only hope that Maldonado can up his game, get rid of the attitude, and bring the car home as a reliable second driver to Grosjean. Doing that would be a success in and of itself.