Starting karting at the age of 7, Maldonado moved to Europe in 1999. In 2003, he competed in Formula Renault 2.0 and was the champion in the winter series. Winning 8 races in the following season was enough to give him the title. He raced in the world series by Renault in 2005 but received a nine race ban after accidentally hitting a marshal during a practice session. In 2006 he had more success and finished 3rd in the series with 3 race wins.
Switching to GP2 in 2007, Maldonado won in Monaco but missed 8 rounds due to an injury. Staying in the series for 2008, he had more success. Finishing 5th overall for Piquet Sports, he won 1 race and got 6 podiums. After 2 more years in GP2, he finally became champion in 2010. With 6 race victories, he dominated the season. This success was enough to give him a contract for Williams in 2011.
His debut season was rather unsuccessful due to an uncompetitive car and he only got one point all season. However, this changed in 2012 when he won the Spanish GP. This made him the first Venezuelan F1 race winner and gave him 25 much needed points. Unfortunately, he failed to score a single point in the next nine races – mainly due to a high number of mistakes and crashes. He ended the season with 45 points and only 15th overall. The 2013 season was much worse; suffering from lack of pace in his Williams, he only received one point in the entire season.
A move to Lotus in 2014 seamed promising but, with a struggling Renault-powered car, failed to finish better than 9th. Williams, his former team, scored 320. He was also outperformed by his teammate Grosjean. Staying in Lotus for 2015, he is hoping for a more successful season.