‘Maldonado shut his critics up’

Date published: May 16 2012

Williams board member Toto Wolff believes Pastor Maldonado has once and for all “shut up” those who labelled him as nothing more than a “pay driver”…

Williams board member Toto Wolff believes Pastor Maldonado has once and for all “shut up” those who labelled him as nothing more than a “pay driver”.

Many felt the only reason that Williams handed Maldonado a race seat in 2011 was due to the millions of sponsorship money he brings from the Venezuelan government and oil and gas giant PDVSA.

The critics were given plenty of ammunition last year as he picked up only one point during a troublesome campaign for the Grove squad.

With Williams improving this season, Maldonado’s performances also picked up and the crowning moment came in Spain this weekend when he started on pole position following Lewis Hamilton’s exclusion from qualifying, and then held off a charging Fernando Alonso to claim his maiden win.

Wolff feels the 27-year-old’s victory proves that money is not the only reason why he is driving for Williams.

“I think silencing his critics is being diplomatic with language,” he told Autosport. “I think he has shut them up with his performance in Spain.

“I have said it many times before that the economic environment [in motor racing] has changed. If you want to run in GP2 you need one and a half million pounds, so the drivers there are not only quick and talented but these guys have been able to attract partners too.

“Pastor has been very successful in attracting partners and many others have been too. So let’s forget about this phrase ‘pay driver’, as we have to get used to this situation in the future.”

Several pundits predicted that Maldonado would crack under pressure in Barcelona, especially after his final-lap crash at the Australian GP when he smashed his car into the wall while chasing the fifth-placed Alonso.

The Venezuelan, though, learned from his mistakes.

“It is a lot about learning, and Pastor learned a very hard lesson in Melbourne,” Wolff explained. “He thought about it a lot and before the race, when we discussed the strategy, he said: ‘I am OK coming out of lap one in a position that is not in the lead. I am out there to score points.’

“He wasn’t putting himself under pressure, which I think is very important. In the race, he was faultless and he was very well managed from his race engineer about conserving the tyres.”