Maldonado no longer certain Venezuela backing will flow

Pastor Maldonado has admitted he cannot be certain his F1 career will continue long after the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Sponsoring Williams via the state-controlled PDVSA oil company, Chavez died of cancer last week and Maldonado rushed back to his native country before Australia for his funeral.

Asked if the death will affect his career, Maldonado admitted in Melbourne: “Politically, I don’t know.

“I think many of you in the media have said everything is gone for me, but here I am. We’ll see.”

The 28-year-old backed Chavez’s controversial approach to ploughing state money into sports, Maldonado noting that, previously, “people only knew Venezuela for the oil and the girls”.

“I think it changed a lot with Chavez and now it can be worse. We’ve started and now we need to carry on.”

Meanwhile, technical boss Mike Coughlan is leading the Williams team in Melbourne, with team boss Frank Williams and his daughter Claire back in the UK in the wake of the death of wife and mother Ginny.

“We obviously have to move on, but I hope we do well this weekend in Ginny’s memory,” said Coughlan.


Raikkonen denies racing only for money

Kimi Raikkonen has hit back at claims only money motivates him to keep racing in F1.

After a two-year hiatus in world rallying in the wake of his Ferrari career, the phlegmatic Finn returned to the grid with Lotus last year, winning in Abu Dhabi and finishing a surprise third in the world championship.

He also made a lot of money, raking in millions after agreeing a modest retainer with lucrative bonuses for the swathe of points he ultimately scored.

“I’ve been paid well for my work,” Raikkonen is quoted as saying by Finland’s Turun Sanomat. “It has sometimes been a lot, sometimes not so much, but if money was the only motivation, I would not be in Formula One.

“Although it has become safer, there are also high risks.”


Wife of Sir Frank Williams dies after battle with cancer

Lady Virginia Williams, the wife of Sir Frank Williams, has died aged 66 after a two year battle with cancer.

A statement by the Williams F1 team reads, “It is with great sadness that we report the death of Lady Virginia Williams, wife of Williams founder and team principal Sir Frank Williams.

“Lady Virginia, or ‘Ginny’ as she was better known, died peacefully at the family home. Ginny had been bravely battling cancer for the past two and a half years.

“It goes without saying that Virginia Williams played an enormous role in getting Sir Frank through the aftermath of his road car accident and she had been a rock in his life ever since.

“Ginny will always be an integral part of Williams’ history and success, and today we pay tribute to a much loved member of the Williams family who will be sorely missed.

“Please respect the family’s wishes for privacy at this time.”

Hamilton: Button rivalry ‘not exciting’

Lewis Hamilton has revved up his rivalry with former teammate Jenson Button by saying the idea of beating his countryman “doesn’t excite me”.

The Britons were paired together at McLaren between 2010 and last season, but Hamilton has switched camps over the winter to Mercedes.

Button seems happy with what most pundits are describing as ‘de-facto’ number 1 status alongside team newcomer and youngster Sergio Perez.

“It’s unbelievably different,” he beamed, according to the Guardian.

“I’m really loving my job at the moment.”

But over at Mercedes, Hamilton shrugged at the suggestion beating Button at the wheel of a different silver car is an exciting prospect.

“The rivalry between me and Fernando (Alonso) excites me more,” he is quoted by the Daily Mail.

“You also want to beat Seb(astian Vettel), as they are the ones with the most titles. But Alonso’s the fastest driver I can see.”

Whether Hamilton has the most respect for him or not, 33-year-old Button is happy with his lot, insisting he won’t be following Hamilton in the chase for a fresh challenge.

“I feel very at home. I feel like I’d like to end my career here,” he said.


Schumacher rules out becoming F1 pundit

Michael Schumacher has ruled out returning to the formula one paddock as a television pundit.

It is an occupation now enjoyed by a number of the seven time world champion’s rivals, like former teammates Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert, and even his title nemesis Damon Hill.

But, although now returning to retirement after three final years with Mercedes, Schumacher is not coming back to occupy a microphone.

“That would not be my thing,” he told Bild newspaper. “First, things move so fast in formula one that even I am already a long way behind, and that is not my style,” said the 44-year-old legend.

“Secondly, once again I would be away from my family, and not even having the fun of driving.”

So, asked what he will be doing when the cars line up on the Melbourne grid without him next weekend, Schumacher answered: “At home, watching TV.”


Red Bull could re-brand Renault engines

Red Bull is not ruling out rebranding its Renault engines in future.

French supplier Renault, although complaining its recent successes have not been well enough recognised, is regarded as Red Bull’s ‘works’ partner. Brand ambassador Alain Prost admitted one of his goals is to talk up Renault’s contribution.

“How many people out there know that Renault has won the last three world championships?” he rhetorically asked Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “We have to sell ourselves better. People should know what we do and why we do it,” added Prost.

However, Renault could be set to sink further into the background at Red Bull at some point in the future.

Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has admitted the team’s Renault engines could be rebranded, as the title sponsorship with new title partner Infiniti is further ramped up.

“Yes, at some point there could be a Red Bull-Infiniti,” the Austrian billionaire told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.


New Jersey back on track for 2014 – promoter

New Jersey is back on track for a grand prix in 2014, promoter Leo Hindery has announced.

The Manhattan-skyline street race was due to make its debut on this year’s calendar, but the organisers fell behind on road repairs and obtaining event permits.

Hindery told Sports Business Daily: “I think that Bernie (Ecclestone) made absolutely the right decision (to delay).”

But he added: “We are back under construction.

“We have the consents in place that we didn’t have last fall, and we will quite comfortably put the race on, now probably in the mid-year of 2014 with (Ecclestone’s) support.”

F1 chief executive Ecclestone, however, indicated that New Jersey’s problems were not only to do with approvals, or the repair and asphalting of the roads.

“It’s a problem for the people that started this, and I think it’s basically a financial problem,” he said.