By Adam Tate, Managing Editor
The recent rumors of Pastor Maldonado leaving Lotus/Renault have been confirmed today. The Grand Prix winner made the announcement via social media with the following statement: “Today with the utmost humility I inform you that I will not be present at the starting grid for the 2016 F1 season. Thanks for all your messages of support, passion and concern for my future.”
It has yet to be confirmed if ex-McLaren man Kevin Magnussen will replace him, but sources expect a Magnussen announcement alongside Renault’s launch of their 2016 challenger on Wednesday in Paris. Only one thing is certain and it is that the five year F1 career of Maldonado appears to be over.
Despite his strong credentials as a GP2 champion and his incredible victory at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Maldonado has been a dark horse in modern F1. His frequent crashes, terrible luck and high rate of earning penalties from the stewards made him look to be a worse driver than he actually was.
That coupled with his status as a ‘pay driver’ made his standing in the sport tenuous at best.
In the end it wasn’t the crashes or penalties that proved his undoing, but his pay driver status. Oil giant PDVSA of his native Venezuela has long backed Pastor’s career to the tune of tens of millions.
With Venezuela in political crisis and near economic ruin, there was no way for PDVSA to continue its level of support whether at Lotus/Renault or any other team.
The news leaves Pastor on the market other series in 2016 and leaves Renault in the difficult position of returning to the sport with an all new line up; more details of which we will know by Wednesday.