Reputations are everything in Formula One. Away from the sport, it takes ages to build a reputation and seconds to damage it.
In Formula One, it takes a second to build a reputation. Yet it is almost impossible to shake it off.
Ask Pastor Maldonado.
When the Venezuelan entered the sport in 2011, he already had a reputation for being reckless after hitting a marshal while competing in World Series by Renault at Monaco.
He was given a four-race ban for the incident.
His reputation followed him to F1, when an incident with Lewis Hamilton ended his race. And the reputation grew when Maldonado and Hamilton collided again, this time in qualifying in Spa.
And there are numerous other incidents that could be mentioned that involve Maldonado. But it was the one in China with Jenson Button that irked this writer the most.
It led to the BBC writing this article:
And Sky Sports F1 said this in their not-very-fair driver ratings:
Both of these pieces of journalism show how Maldonado won’t be able to shake his reputation, a reputation that leads to the name ‘Crashtor Maldonado’.
The fact that the two Formula One broadcasters in the UK felt the need to slate him for doing nothing says it all.
While he may not have finished in any of his last four races – his last finish being Brazil 2014 – none of these were his fault.
At the season finale in Abu Dhabi, he had a power unit problem. In the opening race of the season, he was an innocent victim of a crash between Felipe Nasr, Kimi Raikkonen and himself.
In Malaysia, he had a brake problem while it seemed he had a repeat of that in China before the collision with Button.
Maldonado is not helped by his pay driver status.
But people seem to forget that, in 2012, he put Williams back on the top step of the podium. In a car that was not the fastest.
And he was hunted down, all race, by Fernando Alonso.
You do not win a race against Alonso, at his home Grand Prix, by being an average pay driver.
Maldonado may be involved in more collisions than average, but it does not mean it is his fault.
Drivers can change – just look at his Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean. Once considered a ‘first lap nutcase’ by Mark Webber, and also served a race ban for causing a collision, the Frenchman is now one of the highest-rated drivers on the grid.
Maldonado may have only scored in eight of 80 GPs, but look at the bigger picture. In three of those years – 2011, 2013 and 2014 – he was driving a car that could barely finish in the points.
His teammate in 2011, Rubens Barrichello, scored points twice compared to Maldonado’s once. Valtteri Bottas, in 2012, scored points once. Romain Grosjean, in 2014, scored points twice.
On top of the points scoring ratio, Maldonado has had 26 DNFs. But how many were his fault? A quick bit of research says it was eight of these – 25%. Eleven of these were accidents, with eight being blamed on Pastor – with or without another car involved.
And his last nine DNFs? Two accidents, of which neither were his fault, and seven car failures.
People need to stop looking at the past and look at the present.
Reputations should be built over time, not over a second. And they should be able to change.