Maldonado makes his point with GP2 crown
Pastor Maldonado wrapped up the GP2 crown despite enduring one of his worst weekends of the season at Monza last weekend.
The 25-year-old Venezuelan's nearly flawless season has resulted in a record-breaking campaign during which he has become one of the most dominant champions in series history.
He says he will be in Formula 1 next year, which would make him the first man from his country to start a grand prix since Johnny Cecotto in 1984. Which team he ends up with will be key to his future progress, just as it was this year.
The 2010 season was destined to be a difficult one for Maldonado. With three years of GP2 competition and four victories in the main series behind him, only championship success would advance his career.
With ART, Piquet and Trident having dispensed with his services previously, he was forced to take a gamble. And gamble he did, on the new Rapax squad.
It didn't look like such a gamble when he set the pace on all three days of pre-season testing at Paul Ricard in March and then repeated the trick on the first of three days at Barcelona the following month.
An open start to the season with Charles Pic, Fabio Leimer, Sergio Perez and Jerome d'Ambrosio sharing the first four races between them perhaps pointed to one of the closest championship fights in series history.
It didn't happen that way though. Maldonado claimed a runaway win in the first of two races at Istanbul and then went on to take the next five feature races as well.
His Spa-Francorchamps victory was the 10th of his GP2 career and allowed him to overhaul Giorgio Pantano to become the most successful driver in series history in terms of race wins - not bad for a man whose last pole position came in 2008.
That is not the only statistic he can be proud of this year. From 18 starts he has set four fastest laps and led 147 laps - 35 more than his nearest challenger Perez.
He has now led 262 laps in GP2 main series races - a figure only Pantano has exceeded, and his career points total of 208 is less than only Pantano and Lucas di Grassi.
Maldonado's success this year has moved him up 30 spots from 108th in the Castrol Rankings to 78th. That leaves him ahead of experienced F1 hands Jarno Trulli (83) and Pedro de la Rosa (132), but significantly leaves him still some way off GP2's highest ranked driver Jules Bianchi (47).
It does make him Venezuela's highest-ranked driver by some margin though. IndyCar driver Ernesto Viso is 24 places further back while GP2 men Rodolfo Gonzalez (214) and Johnny Cecotto Jr (230) have a lot of ground to make up.
Maldonado will hope to use his title as a springboard to F1 stardom, as some of the series' past champions have. Whether he ends up like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, or like Pantano, could rest largely on his next move.