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.


Maldonado can survive without Chavez – Brundle

Pastor Maldonado can probably survive in F1 even without Hugo Chavez. That is the view of former F1 driver turned respected British television commentator Martin Brundle, whilst musing the consequences of the death of the late Venezuelan president.

Until Chavez’s death early this week, Maldonado enjoyed the personal backing of the controversial leader, with his Williams seat secured by the multi-million dollar sponsorship of the state-controlled oil company PDVSA. But now, with Venezuelan elections looming, it is possible Chavez’s ruling socialist party will lose power altogether.

“There are few 27-year-olds whose livelihood is determined not only by the whim of a kindly oligarch, but by the political machinations of an entire country,” noted Telegraph correspondent Oliver Brown.

Brundle, however, thinks the situation is slightly less dramatic for Maldonado.

“He became a national hero for winning the Spanish GP last year and I think that has been good for Venezuela and good for his sponsors, so why would they want to run away?” he told Sky.

Damon Hill partly agrees, but pointed out that “in this day and age, a driver needs more than just ability”.

In fact, the 1996 world champion is now looking for just that kind of support for his son Josh, who this year has stepped up to European F3, one of the last hurdles before F1.

“You need a South American country; we’re looking for one,” Hill joked to Reuters. “Chile, Argentina, any one will do.”


Maldonado: Bottas ‘not a complete rookie’

Pastor Maldonado, who in 2013 enters his third F1 season with Williams, thinks new teammate Valtteri Bottas will get quickly up to speed.

Actually, 23-year-old Finn Bottas is a rookie, and – once the Grove team gets its 2013 car up and running in Barcelona this month – he will have just four days at the wheel before making his grand prix debut in Australia.

But Venezuelan Maldonado said: “Valtteri has been actively involved in the development (of the FW35) and has done a lot of long days in the simulator.

“He is not a complete rookie,” he told the MTV3 broadcaster.

“I believe he will enjoy this season and will be immediately competitive.”

Indeed, one of departed Williams driver Bruno Senna’s complaints was that, despite racing throughout 2012, he usually had to give up his car to Bottas on Friday mornings at grands prix.

Before and after those race weekends last year, reserve driver Bottas was often seen helping the Williams mechanics and truckies set up and dismantle the garage.

The Finn told British Sky television at Jerez: “I promised the guys, even though I am racing now, at least once I will come and help them again.”


Maldonado hopes to keep Williams seat

Pastor Maldonado has revealed he wants to stay at Williams in 2013.

With his PDVSA backing and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez freshly re-elected, the Barcelona winner’s place at the great British team was considered firmly secure. But he surprised the paddock in Japan last weekend by admitting he might switch teams for 2013.

Maldonado said in Korea on Thursday: “To be honest I really want to stay with Williams. I have good confidence with them but at the moment there is not confirmation. So (I’m) looking forward to seeing that but otherwise looking forward to remaining in formula one for sure,” he added.

Maldonado admits ‘chance’ of Williams switch

Pastor Maldonado has admitted there is “a chance” he will switch teams ahead of the 2013 season.

Days ago, before Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was re-elected by his countrymen, the lucratively PDVSA-backed Maldonado answered “we’ll see” when asked if he will still be a Williams driver next season. The Spanish GP winner said he could not comment because the great British team always waits until the end of the year to announce its lineup for the following season. But now, with Chavez soundly in office until at least 2018, Maldonado has been quoted as admitting a change to another team is possible.

“At the moment there is a chance to go to other teams but we are considering remaining here (Williams), but it is still too early,” the 27-year-old is quoted by Sky Sports. “It is difficult to say, until other teams have confirmed their drivers you never know,” he added.

The 2013 lineups at top teams Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes have all been confirmed, but theoretical vacancies at Ferrari, Lotus, Sauber and Force India still exist.


Relief for Maldonado as supporter Chavez re-elected

F1 insiders had a keen eye on Venezuela’s presidential election on Sunday.

The sport’s main focus was, of course, in Japan, where Pastor Maldonado was racing his PDVSA-branded Williams around Suzuka. But in his native Venezuela, countrymen were busy re-electing the socialist incumbent Hugo Chavez — probably a significant moment for the continuation of Maldonado’s career.

Chavez, who achieved 54 per cent of the vote, is a known supporter of Maldonado’s F1 career, backing the 27-year-old in millions through the PDVSA brand.

State owned oil company PDVSA’s backing of Maldonado has been highly controversial, and on the eve of the Japanese grand prix, the driver sounded unsure if the money would keep flowing in 2013 — probably because Chavez’s now-defeated opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski was vowing sweeping reforms. But with Chavez now elected, analysts expect the status quo for PDVSA, with a Reuters report saying the 58-year-old uses the company to pay “for everything from sports teams to health clinics”.

“Congratulations to all Venezuelans for their participation in the elections,” Maldonado wrote on Twitter. “Long live democracy!”


Maldonado: Stewards stricter in 2012

Pastor Maldonado has revealed he thinks the stewards are being tougher in 2012 compared with other F1 seasons.

Along with the Monza-banned Romain Grosjean, Venezuelan Maldonado has been regarded as the ‘bad boy’ of the current season, copping no fewer than 14 official sanctions from the thirteen grands prix so far.

“We have to adapt to what the stewards want,” the Williams driver told AS sports newspaper. “This year they’re being harder than before. Undoubtedly they are stricter now,” he told the Spanish publication.

Fernando Alonso said recently he thinks the new generation of F1 driver is more aggressive, due to the nature of the feeder series GP2.

“Yes, you could say that, but on the other hand that’s not our fault, it’s the fault of the officials for accepting many things in GP2 and not many things in formula one.”


Wolff hopes Maldonado will stay with Williams

Toto Wolff on Monday admitted he hopes Pastor Maldonado stays with Williams in 2013.

Venezuelan Maldonado, although winning in Barcelona earlier this year, has been a highly controversial figure on the 2012 grid. Bringing millions in backing to the famous British team, the 27-year-old is often fast and impressive, but he has also been involved in numerous on-track incidents. Wolff, the team’s shareholder and new executive director, insisted Maldonado is “extremely fast”.

“Yes, he seems to struggle in some situations in the race,” he also admitted to F1’s official website.

Wolff, however, said he is “100 per cent sure” Maldonado will smooth off the hard edges.

“Remember Ayrton Senna in the beginning? Nobody wanted to touch him,” he said. “In those days there weren’t many grid penalties, but had there been he would probably have had to go back 10 places on the grid many times.”

Wolff said Maldonado will “hopefully” be a Williams driver in 2013. But what about Bruno Senna? The Brazilian already gives up his car to the Wolff-managed Valtteri Bottas on Friday mornings, and the young Finn is tipped to get a full race seat next year.

Wolff said it is “too early to say” if both of Williams’ drivers will still be with the Grove based team in 2013.

“Sure, we are taking different looks at the issue, but the minute we discuss it we are going to mess up Pastor and Bruno – and maybe others that we try talking to – so I would give it another month before we are going to have the first idea of what we want,” he said.


FIA putting a lid on aggressive drivers

Romain Grosjean may not be racing this weekend, but his name was still triggering a lot of conversation at Monza on Thursday.

Lotus’ Frenchman is serving a one-race ban for the Spa crash a week ago, and most paddock pundits believe the FIA is also ready to clamp down on Pastor Maldonado’s shaky driving in 2012.

The Venezuelan will already serve a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday’s grid.

“This year the stewards seem to be harder, not just for me but generally,” the Williams driver is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. “We have to respect that and adapt to it.”

Mentioning Grosjean or Maldonado’s names to pundits throughout the Monza paddock, and the answer is unanimous: ‘Aggressive’.

“It is one of my characteristics, some like it; some don’t,” Maldonado said. “It’s difficult to say ‘now I will get this style or I will change that’. I need to think more and evaluate more the situation in the car,” he acknowledged.

Some think Grosjean’s ban is harsh, some say fair, but it is unanimously agreed that the FIA is laying down the law about those sorts of incidents needing to stop.

“Yes, there have been a lot of mistakes this year; things that you just wouldn’t imagine happening at this level,” Spa winner Jenson Button told F1’s official website. “Maybe this is a good thing to show people that it won’t be tolerated because we are still racing in a dangerous sport.”

Like it or not, it is believed that further action in the area of driving cockpit protection is now inevitable.

The paddock is split.

Michael Schumacher told German reporters that he thinks a forward roll-hoop or a canopy – whatever solution – “must be the future”.

Sebastian Vettel is less enthusiastic, but he agrees: “It is probably unavoidable now. I’m not a big fan of it, but probably if you had the chance to choose in the moment when someone comes flying at you, everybody chooses the closed option. Therefore it will not take too long before we have it.”


Double grid slot penalty for Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado has been handed two ten-place grid slot penalties at the Italian Grand Prix after two separate incidents during the Belgian Grand Prix.

Maldonado’s first five place grid slot penalty is for jumping the start of the race at Spa-Francorchamps. Ordinarily, Maldonado would have been given a drive-through penalty during the race however because he retired early the stewards were unable to impose this penalty and therefore gave him a grid slot penalty for the Italian Grand Prix instead.

“The driver failed to finish the race so the usual penalty for a false start could not be imposed,” said an official statement.

Maldonado has also been given a penalty for his clash with Timo Glock. Although Glock was able to continue in the race, the Belgian race stewards decided that Maldonado’s actions deserved a five-place grid slot penalty.