Quelle surprise! Pastor Maldonado has expressed fears that Formula 1 drivers will become too scared to battle wheel-to-wheel if the FIA Stewards continue to hand out penalties for racing incidents.
The Venezuelan – who holds the record for the most number of driving offences on today’s grid (in terms of penalties awarded) – faces a five-place grid drop at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix after pitching the Sauber of Esteban Gutiérrez into a slow roll at the Bahrain Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
It was a penalty that – in the context of Daniel Ricciardo being awarded an automatic ten-place grid penalty for an unsafe pit release during the preceding – attracted howls of complaint from fans worldwide, who argued that the Lotus driver should have been hit with a more serious punishment given his previous track record (refer to table, right).
Gutiérrez emerged unhurt from the accident, although the same could not be said of the Mexican’s car, which was shipped back to Sauber’s Swiss headquarters for assessment, leaving him forced to use the spare C33 chassis this weekend.
The roll-hoop-mounted camera on Gutiérrez’s car was snapped clean off, although mercifully the roll hoop itself withstood the up-ending.
Worryingly, Maldonado tried to play down the accident, incredibly disagreeing with the stewards’ assessment and the punishment meted out to him.
“It was a soft crash,” he told a bewildered group of reporters during the build-up to the Chinese Grand Prix.
“In my opinion it was a normal race contact – but because of the low nose as soon as I touched his sidepod he took off immediately.
“So it was a bit shocking from that point of view, and I didn’t expect him to fly like that. But that is what we have.
“I think the penalty was related to the magnitude of what we saw, but not because of the contact.”
Maldonado argued that he should only have been hit with a drive-through penalty in the same manner that Marussia’s Jules Bianchi – who twice hit the sister Sauber of Adrian Sutil during the race – was.
Maldonado went on to express concern that the spate of drive-through penalties, grid drops and penalty point handouts could deny fans the spectacle of genuine wheel-to-wheel racing.
“The rules are the same for everyone, so you need to avoid incidents,” he said. “But at the same time [the threat of penalties means] you cannot race, you need to only stay on track and wait for problems.
“If you attack and your manoeuvre is not that clear, or the guy is defending the place and you have a gamble, and you are fighting, you can be penalised.
“So they [the FIA] need to be slightly more flexible.
“We are racing drivers and we are always taking risks. If you are competitors and you can overtake, you need to take risks – but at the same point the rules are going against the spectaculars (sic).
“Ten years ago everyone was fighting and touching each other, because there were no penalties. Now we need to adapt ourselves.”
Images via Auto Blog and