Venezuela's Pastor Maldonado has confirmed that he will be hanging up his helmet and departing Formula 1, having competed in 95 Grand Prix' over five seasons — earning himself a contentious reputation for frequently causing on-track incidents.
“Today, with the biggest humility, I inform you that I won’t be on the grid at the start of the 2016 season,” said the 30-year-old in a statement.
Many have debated the merits and pitfalls of teams hiring Maldonado. Most recently Mark Webber labelled him worst driver in Formula 1, in a recent interview with Australia's Wheels Magazine.
"He's out of his depth and just shouldn't be there. He's making up the numbers basically," Webber added.
Photo / Lotus F1
Maldonado's reputation sparked a variety of responses from fans and competitors, peaking at the creation of the Has Maldonado Crashed Today website, and numerous others attempting to cash in on the driver's cult audience. Many discussions around 'pay drivers' have been sparked by Maldonado's performances, with his positions at Williams F1 and Lotus F1 both heavily influenced by oil company and personal sponsor PDVSA.
These discussions came despite Maldonado's success in the feeders levels — which included a GP2 championship crown in 2010 — before he took his maiden Formula 1 race win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.
It had been rumoured that Maldonado would be leaving the Lotus Formula 1 squad for quite some time, with many more further speculating that second-generation racer and former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen would replace the embattled driver. The Renault-powered Lotus F1 team will be hosting a press conference this coming Wednesday, where Magnussen's selection is expected to be confirmed.