The three drivers who could inherit Maldonado’s ‘bad boy’ reputation

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In years to come Pastor Maldonado may be remembered firstly as the driver who ended the Williams team’s eight-year grand prix drought in 2012.

But it was clear from the reaction to Monday’s news of his departure from F1 that he is best known at the moment for his poor disciplinary record and tendency to provoke incidents.

Is this a fair reflection on him? At the time of writing there are three drivers in the current field who have picked up penalties more frequently than F1’s most notorious ‘bad boy’.

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The new ‘bad boys’?

Carlos Sainz Jnr has the unfortunate distinction of being the driver in F1 today who has incurred the most penalties per race, taking into account every grand prix over the past five years. Sainz, who made his debut last year, was penalised ten time last year and only three of those were due to his team (e.g. due to component changes).

His team mate also accrued penalties at a higher rate than Maldonado. Max Verstappen not only collected six penalties during his first season (and a further six due to his team), he also picked up eight penalty points. That means he will receive a one-race ban if he collects another four before May 24th.

The final driver who has collected penalties at a faster rate than Maldonado is returning to F1 following a one-year absence. Esteban Gutierrez incurred 11 penalties during his previous two seasons driving for Sauber.

Is one of these drivers on course to become the ‘new Maldonado’? It’s worth bearing two things in mind. First, they are all near their beginning of their F1 careers: only one of them has started more than one season, and you would expect them to quickly learn how to stay out of trouble. Second, the total number of penalties being issued has risen in recent seasons, so it’s not just these three who are visiting the stewards more often.

Data based on penalties for which the driver was considerably principally responsible, excluding power unit changes, gearbox changes and similar penalties.

Mr Clean

Rosberg has kept his nose clean – just
Out of the 48 drivers who have started an F1 race over the past five seasons, Nico Rosberg stands out as the only one to have been present for every race without receiving a penalty for a driving infraction. The worst he’s had is a reprimand, and any penalties he did receive were for incidents caused by his team, such as an unsafe release from the pits at Suzuka in 2013.

In the last five years Rosberg has been involved in seven incidents all of which led to the stewards taking no action. These included some very vigorous defending from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso and Bahrain in 2012, and passing a car after red flags came out at Silverstone last year. In these incidents the stewards were satisfied with Rosberg’s driving after considering mitigating factors.

The value of being seen as a clean driver in the eyes of the stewards can be seen from another of Rosberg’s brushes with authority during the 2011 Korean Grand Prix weekend. He was absolved of blame for a collision with Jean-Eric Vergne after the stewards took into account “Mr Rosberg’s good record during his years in Formula One”.

The reputation came under greatest scrutiny in 2014 following two incidents involving Rosberg’s team mate Lewis Hamilton. In Monaco Rosberg was accused of deliberately stopping his car in order to bring out the yellow flags, forcing Hamilton to back off an guaranteeing Rosberg pole position. The stewards “examined video and telemetry data from the team and FIA and could find no evidence of any offence“. The pair later tangled at Spa but this incident was not investigated.

Reformed offenders

Grosjean was banned partly because of who he hit
The 2011 season was a tough time for Lewis Hamilton: he incurred seven penalties over the course of the season, over than three times more than any other driver, leading some to question whether he was being treated more harshly than other drivers. But this debate has receded as Hamilton has made far fewer visits to the stewards in more recent seasons.

Similarly Romain Grosjean has largely shaken off his reputation for being a loose cannon on the track. His nadir came at Spa in 2012 where he became the first driver to be banned from a race in almost two decades.

Controversially, the stewards noted his severe punishment was in part because he had “eliminated leading championship contenders from the race“. But the sanction may have had its desired effect: Grosjean is a maturer and considerably less incident-prone driver these days.

Who’s to blame?

While the data above refers only to penalties drivers incurred through their own actions, last year almost as many penalties were handed down because of mistakes made by their teams.

This chart shows how many penalties each driver picked up themselves – and how many were down to their team:

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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62 comments on “The three drivers who could inherit Maldonado’s ‘bad boy’ reputation”

  1. My money’s going on Magnussen, actually

    1. Fudge Ahmed (@)
      5th February 2016, 12:41


      But we could be wrong. Perez drove quite erratically when at McLaren because the message was to basically get results at all costs from above, Ron I presume.

      1. @offdutyrockstar

        I remember MW publically encouraging Perez to “get his elbows out”. After that, he seemed to be far too aggressive.

        Perez exudes more maturity than he used to, particularly the final half of ’15. He was very strong, in all fairness. I suspect that Hulkenburg’s Le Mans success is partly responsible for igniting his form, though. It’ll be interesting to see if he can carry that over into ’16.

    2. Yeah Magnussen didn’t seem that good when racing in the pack. I think he will receive more penalties than Gutuerrez in 2016.

    3. Except that Palmer also has much to prove and Renault has already publicly stated he’s expected to be aggressive.

      Second pick for me would Goofierrez since he’s just not F1 quality and will possibly have the car to be near other drivers.

      And third will be Verstappen. Ego ego ego will cause poor decisions and incidents. Then again maybe the stewards will continue look the other way when it comes to him.

    4. I didn’t think of Mag nor Palmer but I can see that. I was thinking Grosjean, especially because the Haas car is expected to run amongst the tail end of the field. JB to continue his streak of mistakes if the McLaren Honda proves not be competitive, that said JB can get away with penalties. Honourable mentions, Massa and Bottas, these 2 can get away with penalties but they are going to crash often.

  2. Mr clean after Monaco 14 I would have banned him for 3 races…

    1. Good thing you’re not in charge, then.

    2. Lewis fan by any chance?

  3. Ricciardo may be! Last year, he was over-driving a lot to compensate for the shortcomings of his car. Given that Renault don’t expect their engine to be much better, I think the same may repeat now.

    1. Guybrush Threepwood
      5th February 2016, 21:35

      By over-driving you mean getting hit by other drivers. 3 in one race. And despite having to actually race other cars (attention Rosberg) he still has one of the cleanest records of any driver.

    2. Monaco with Kimi was outrageous. He somewhat caused a massive incident at start in Silverstone. He had another start incident with Massa when he tried to get in between two drivers and Massa bumped him. There were some other controversial incidents as well. He’s been way too aggressive.

      1. Guybrush Threepwood
        7th February 2016, 0:54

        It seems you take a very different view to the stewards (and most others) who are privy to a lot more information than you or I have access to.

  4. Bad Boy? not how I saw him, I would say, clumsy, in denial, sketchy, unpredictable, inconsistent, out of his league. That is how I will remember him.

    1. At over 320kph, “unpredictable” was Maldonado’s racing attribute that most disturbed me.

  5. Max Verstappen will get that reputation quickly. You just have to wait for the day when his rivals won’t let him get away with his “let me past or we crash” moves.

    1. @klon well to be fair it worked for Senna from his debut until ’89 :)

      1. Verstappen is living up to his nickname of ‘being the new Senna’.

      2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        5th February 2016, 15:21

        Absolutely, Verstappen should use every year he’s not yet in the championship fight to build up a reputation as a concede or crash passer. It will serve him well once he gets a factory ride.

        1. Much like Hamilton really.

    2. That’s how champions pass, @klon

      1. Buster, I would have to disagree with you there and say that the trend of “let me through or I’ll take you out” is a more modern style of driving.

        In the past, that sort of driving would have been considered unacceptable – Scheckter, for example, was on the point of being expelled from the sport because he drove in that way and caused a number of major accidents – if not outright lethal given the safety standards of the time. I don’t recall figures like Hakkinen resorting to those sorts of reckless measures to pass other drivers – so no, I fundamentally disagree that “That’s how champions pass”, because few drivers win titles by smashing their car to pieces.

    3. @klon Tell me the day drivers stopped letting Senna get away with such moves.

      Or even HAM, actually.

  6. Another excellent feature, Keith!

  7. If you haven’t had a shall we say ‘difficult’ period on your record then ur not trying hard enough. Looking at you Jenson, Nico!

    1. Alonso isn’t trying hard enough @blackmamba ?

      1. Alonso isn’t moving quickly enough

  8. If the Manor cars are competitive enough to get involved I expect some penalties from their drivers, they’re not used to trying overtakes!

  9. @keithcollantine Again another feature during a boring off-season.

    Proud to be a fan of Webber once more. :)

    1. Somewhere the word ‘good’ got left out.

  10. The one I’m most surprised by is Kobayashi. For someone who was known for aggressive driving, he’s pretty low on the list. Ahhh… miss that guy.. lol!

    1. I know some people don’t rate Kobayashi, but I always found more often than not he was a good driver to watch and push his car.

      1. @captainpie He found a better seat for 2016 anyway.

      2. He was a fantastic late braker, and when DRS was introduced it greatly reduced the impact of Kobayashi’s unique selling point.

  11. Maldonado wasn’t a bad boy, he was just a BAD driver!!!

  12. I dont know who the new Crashtor will be… but i bet they dont get as much stick as Maldonado has over the last few years. On another notem, would have been good to see the ‘team caused’ penalties as a seperate graph, i know its not really related, but its the only way to see mclaren one-two these days!!!!

    1. Got it wrong, danny ric pips alonso for second!!!!

  13. When was the last time Rosberg got a penalty for driving misconduct? France 2008? As someone who is generally criticized for his racecraft, he is statistically one of the cleanest and fairest drivers ever.

    1. @kingshark If you don’t do anything you can’t do anything wrong.

      1. @xtwl
        Rosberg is better and more successful than all bar four or five drivers since 2011. If he’s not “doing anything”, then basically every driver in F1 history apart from the 32 who became WDC “didn’t do anything”.

        Good memory. I don’t recall any penalties for him in 2010 either.

        1. @kingshark Get off your high horse, you know what I meant. I can’t remember a single great overtake by him and his defensive skills aren’t brilliant either. His wheel to wheel combat reeks over-cautiousness.

          1. @xtwl
            I actually remember plenty of late divebombs but him. 3 times on a Ferrari in Bahrain (twice Seb, once Kimi), on Massa in Silverstone, on Bottas in Japan. Those passes were done purely on the brakes. He always makes them stick however, without contact.

          2. @kingshark ‘divebombs’, or as I see them ‘braking too late and just hope the other driver sees you coming’. They look spectacular the moment but when was the last time you saw a Hamilton or Vettel perform a divebomb out of desperation whilst driving such a superior car. Granted Vettel tried one on Maldonado in Mexico.

          3. Remember Russia 2014..The way ROS jumped on the inside line of turn 2 to overtake Bottas. That was very risky and amazing to watch.

          4. Er…HAM tried to ‘divebomb’ MAS and screwed up his race…Hungary 15 I think..and VET at Mexico too.

          5. @xtwl
            Hamilton? Plenty of times actually. Hamilton in the Bridgestone era was known to be a bit of a divebomber. He even said himself that he considers his move on Kimi at Monza 2007 to be one of his best. Even in 2014 he made plenty of late-braking moves (on Massa in Austria & on Rosberg in USA). Ricciardo and Verstappen have made plenty of divebombs, and they are considered two of the best wheel-to-wheel racers on the grid.

            Speaking of Austin, I nearly forgot Rosberg’s move on Hamilton at Austin 2015.

          6. @kingshark @subhashs I understand they are great to watch and are viewed by some as great overtakes, it just doesn’t do that for me. If your overtake relies on nothing else but hoping your opponent does not turn in then I don’t rate that as a top overtake which again does not at all mean it cannot look spectacular. Same goes for Ricciardo his ‘overtake’ on Rosberg in Hungary. Looks great on the moment but I’m not rating it as a great overtake.

    2. @kingshark

      Singapore 2009, I think.

    3. I would love to find out for how many of the offences he was called up on & let go that Derek Warwick was the steward that weekend. He’s convinced me that he’s incapable of being impartial when it comes to Rosberg.

  14. I think Perez has the potential to be the new bad boy. I mean of course bad boy in terms of driving, not fans petty hate object. People sometime confuse the two.

    1. The Crashador certainly deserved the stick he got for driving. But he certainly got lots of it for his state sponsorship. Which never made sense to me, but I guess some folks just like one oil company or one style of corrupt government better than another.

  15. Romain Grosejean…. But he is good now.

    Lol Nico Rosberg.. 0 penalties. Not dirty enough to be a champion.

    Really, the bad boy status I think goes to Verstapen. But his race craft is far superior. Imagine penalties Verstapen wold get with his courage and slightly less skill?

    1. That being said.. I hope Toro Roso has a reserve driver…

  16. Going through Carlos and Max’s penalties, a lot of them are “technical”. Only 1 of them is for a collision (Verstappen/Grosjean at Monaco), there are many “pit lane speeding”, one for doing a slow reconnaissance lap, a few “pit lane speeding”, ignoring blue flags, etc. Most of them could be explained by their lack of experience. There weren’t any blatant “What the heck is he trying to do” moments with them.

    Maldonado was a mess. He’d be a mess even if he didn’t get penalties. It was his driving that made him a joke, not the penalties he got. And so far, I haven’t seen that kind of sloppy driving in neither Carlos nor Max.

    Magnussen should do fine as long as Renault don’t pressure him into being super-aggressive. As for Gutierrez…That’s a tough call. He has shown some bad driving in the past, but a year at Ferrari might have taught him something. Maybe not. We’ll see.

    1. I think it might be between Haryanto and Guttierez this year @casjo. Magnussen nor Palmer will feel too much pressure so probably won’t overdo it, and I agree with you that both Sainz and Verstappen will most likely have learnt from their rookie years.

  17. If the stewards were more consistent the whole chart would look different. Nice article, but therefore of little value to me.

  18. Excellent article, Keith.

    I think even better than some of last year’s race recaps.

  19. Raikkonen could like Coulthard easily become the ‘grumpy-old-man-on-the-way-out-not-taking-it-from-kiddies-anymore’ with outrageous blocks or no-hope dives, and we’ve seen it started happening already.

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