The Williams is much worse than last year and the Lotus is much better. Also, I remember Hulkenberg fighting with Lotuses in Bahrain and being beaten by them in China.
Lotus isn't much better. It isn't even a little better. Last year their's best time in Monaco Q was 3,268 seconds slower than pole position, this year it was 3,787 seconds. Last year in Barcelona it was 4,679 seconds, this year it was 4,893. It doesn't say everything but it seems that Team Lotus hasn't improved since last year.
Also Williams isn't much worse than at the start of the last year. 2010 start was also disaster for Williams, although they had a little more luck and scored few points, mainly thanks to not so bad performance in Australia, where Hulk couldn't show anything in the race as he was hit by Kobayashi at 1st lap. This year Williams's Barcelona best lap was 1,873 seconds worse than pole position, last year it was 2,136, so it shows that FW32 wasn't clear step above FW33 in terms of speed.
Hulk was beaten by Lotus in China as team decided to change tyres for him on slicks exactly when it started to rain more. That's why he lost much time.
Hulkenberg rarely got near Barrichello until the second half of last year. Maldonado is already his team-mate's equal in pace. What more does he have to do to gain approval? I bet that if he had no sponsorship behind him, people would be praising him left, right and centre.
Maldonado proved nothing more than that he can beat Barrichello in Monaco, which is known as his best circuit. Hulk did extactly the same last year in Malaysia(which isn't known as his best circuit). In other races in 2011 Pastor was consistently much slower than Rubens, apart from Barcelona, where Barrichello wasn't able to do his best due to issues in his car. And Hulk also beat Rubens in Barcelona quali in 2010. What is more, I think that Rubens was doing clearly better job last year. He is quite old for an F1 driver and that's the age when reflex, stamina and some other important skills are getting worse year by year. Last year he had impressed me some great performances in poor car. This year he hadn't.
Maldonado did a great job in Monaco but it's still definetely too early to say that he is better than Hulk. If he will be able to repeat that kind of performance in most of other races, I will change my mind, but time will show. And you should remember that there was much more pressure on Hulk, as he had to proved that he is worth a seat for 2011. It's believed that Pastor is a part of long-term deal between Williams and PDVSA, so he seems to be safe and hasn't so much pressure on him. Pressure certainly doesn't help a rookie, as there are still many things which you have to learn in your first year in Formula1 as a racing driver. Especially, it doesn't help to be consistent. Hulk wasn't, but he has shown many signs of big promise. I still consider him as a huge-talented driver and I believe that he will shine when he get a right seat at the right time and some time that will allow to unlock his big potential.
And trust me, I would prefer to believe that Pastor is better than Nico, as he is driving Williams at the moment, while Hulk isn't. But it's beyond me and I always wanted to be objective and fair. I don't say Pastor is bad, it seems he isn't, but he has to show more if he wants to prove he is better than Hulk. I don't claim that he won't show, but he hasn't shown, yet.
Impression is the thing which has a great influence on people's opinion. But impression isn't the same as fact and it's a trap not to believe your own impressions so much if you couldn't prove that they're right.