Pastor Maldonado may have endured a season of wildly fluctuating fortunes but one area in which the Williams driver has consistently impressed has been in qualifying.
Whereas team-mate Bruno Senna has only made Q3 once in 18 attempts, Maldonado has reached the top 10 on 11 occasions, burnishing his reputation as a one-lap specialist by starting inside the front two rows four times.
The most noticeable thing about his two most recent top-four starts, in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, was his lap-time improvement between Q2 and Q3: the Venezuelan finding the best part of seven and eight tenths in the final shootout at the two events respectively despite falling temperatures on both occasions.
So just how does he do it? Maldonado gave an insight into his thinking and approach to a qualifying lap to the latest edition of the JA on F1 podcast.
“I think it’s something mentally,” he explains. “I’m quite strong mentally to be honest with you. There is not the perfect lap – it doesn’t exist – you always can do better. What I learn from qualy one I do that in qualy two, and what I learn from qualy one and two I try to do that for qualy three.
“I try to put everything together in qualy three and that’s why I often go to the top three, top five, because I try to get more than 100% from the myself, from the car, from the people around me. Qualy is very important because if you put the car in the top five the weekend changes completely.”
Maldonado, who also showed flashes of his single-lap speed even in last year’s uncompetitive FW33, also credited his qualifying results to the support he receives from his Williams crew, saying that this was key to him extracting the maximum out of both himself and the car.
“To be honest it’s not only from my side. I have a lot of support from the team,” he said.
“I feel that the concentration is quite high. The communication is so good. They believe in what I feel in the car, they follow me, and this is so important. When the driver feels that you have 100% support behind you can give, and you can release, more than 100%.
“Working so hard as well with the technical side of the team, trying to improve the particular [things]. I really like a neutral car; so I don’t like an understeer car or oversteer, so I’m very precise with the set-ups.”
To listen to the full interview with Pastor Maldonado, including why he believes he can become a world champion with Williams, make sure you listen to the November edition of the JA on F1 podcast available to download via the iTunes store or directly here.