We've been talking about it for the last few weeks on the show, and if you've been watching our Facebook page then you saw it as soon as we heard the news - former GP2 Champion and crash barrier tester Pastor Maldonado has been told by Renault that his services will not be required by the team in 2017.
But the question is - why has Renault decided to send away one of, if not the least popular drivers on the grid? Admittedly, at first glance it would seem to be a pretty stupid question to ask given that we have started following Sniff Petrol's lead and calling Pastor a bewilderfaced talent vacuum, but in thinking about it there's a whole lot of questions here.
Did Renault realize that Pastor costs more in repairs and overtime than he earns the team in sponsorship money? Maybe it was because they realized that for all the complements that his former Lotus bosses give him about the feedback he provides, the limited running Pastor sees isn't good for their efforts to develop their car?
Or was it more related to his sponsorship? It's no secret that Pastor's seat was paid for by the Venezuelan state run oil company PDVSA, and that in return for putting Pastor in a car and featuring PDVSA's logos on the car and team attire PDVSA is paying reportedly in the area of $40 million. Even in the world if F1, that's a lot of money, however with the dramatic fall in oil prices over the last few years, PDVSA isn't bringing in the money it used to. So, did PDVSA's check for Pastor bounce? Did PDVSA try and re-negotiate the terms of the sponsorship deal for Pastor's seat? Or was it due to a potential conflict between PDVSA and Renault's normal fuel and oils partner Total?
And why replace Pastor with Kevin Magnussen? Don't get us wrong. We like Kevin and weren't thrilled that McLaren let him go. But as far as we know right now, Renault's lineup of Kevin Magnussen and Joylen Palmer has all of 1 year of F1 experience between them - all of it on Kevin's side of the garage. For a Works team that desperately needs to figure out where they've gone wrong with their engine design having two inexperienced drivers doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. Romain Grojean may have slipped through Renault's fingers, but why not look at Adrian Sutil or even Jean Erick Vergne over to bring some experience into the garage? We're not sure what kind of backing Kevin Magnussen has - but given the wads of cash PDVSA had been throwing at Williams and then Lotus in order for him to get a drive, it seems unlikely that Magnussen brings more sponsorship money to the team than Pastor did.
It seems pretty obvious at first glance why Renault made Pastor redundant - but if you think about it, why did they do it?