May 3, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
Lotus may not have scored any points so far this season, but Pastor Maldonado believes that the team is capable of finishing in the top five at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
The race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya marks the first European round of the 2014 season, and the first chance for the teams to introduce major upgrade packages for their cars. Having missed the first test in Jerez back in January, Lotus has been on the backfoot ever since, but Romain Grosjean came close to scoring its first points in China last time out. Now, Maldonado is confident that the upgrades can elevate the team to score some good points.
“I’m expecting to be more competitive,” he explained. “It will be very important to start scoring some points, but if everything goes well and we get some luck too then a top five is possible.”
However, the Venezuelan driver is aware of the challenge that lies ahead of the team given the pace of its rivals.
“It is going to be difficult,” he conceded. “There are the two Mercedes and two Red Bulls and then others who have shown good pace in recent races like Force India.
“But if we get 100% from the car we can fight all of the other teams and come away with something good to build on.”
Maldonado enjoyed his finest hour in Formula 1 at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix when he claimed a shock victory for Williams. However, he has failed to reach the podium since then, and scored just one point last season before leaving the team for Lotus. He even accused the team of sabotage at the United States Grand Prix when teammate Valtteri Bottas finished inside the top ten.
He was followed to Lotus by big money sponsor PDVSA, whose pay-off at Williams helped the British team increase its income by over $43m last year.
Although a top five finish may realistically be out of Lotus’ reach, some points could certainly be on the cards.