Maldonado's first experience of formula racing began in Italy in 2003. He competed in the Italian Formula Renault Championship with Cram Competition, and was classified seventh in the drivers' championship. His notable results included three podium finishes and one pole position. Cram Competition also entered one round of the German Formula Renault Championship at Oschersleben.
In 2004, Maldonado ran a dual programme in Italian and European Formula Renault with Cram Competition. He won the Italian title, with eight wins and six pole positions from seventeen starts. Maldonado also found the time to enter one round of the now defunct Formula Renault V6 Eurocup at Spa-Francorchamps, with a best finish of fifth place.