Pastor Maldonado has been confirmed as a Williams F1 driver for the 2011 season. He will partner veteran Rubens Barrichello, whose new deal with the team was confirmed a couple of weeks ago.
This year’s GP2 title-winner – whose dominance of the category set new records – replaces 2009 series champ, Hulkenberg at the Grove-based team. The two were team-mates during the Hulk’s title-winning GP2 campaign, a season during which the rookie German thoroughly battered his more experienced squad mate.
But from a position where many drivers would have skulked away with their egos in bits Maldonado regrouped, switched teams and returned to GP2 as a new and dominant force in 2010. He was champion a round early having won a mighty six successive feature races – all without taking a single pole position.
The Venezuelan also brings large amounts of cash courtesy of his friends at PDVSA – his country’s state-owned oil company – and this is, largely, why Pastor has the drive. The Williams team stated on numerous occasions that Hulkenberg was their first choice for 2011. After a slow start he’d picked up form in the second half of the season and went on to put his name in lights with a stunning pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Sir Frank even called the German a world champion of the future – but money has spoken.
However Maldonado is not a pay driver in the sense of a a Ricardo Rosset, a Giovanni Lavaggi or any of the awful examples you can drag from F1’s past (this might help jog your memory). No, Pastor’s more in the league of Adrian Sutil: yes, he’s brining a lot of cash for his drive but there’s also plenty of talent there.
How he’ll cope against the massively experienced and always-motivated Barrichello, however, remains to be seen.
What They Said.
Pastor Maldonado: “I feel very privileged that Williams has selected me as one of their race drivers. It is a great way to end what has already been an amazing year for me.
“I tested with the team in Abu Dhabi, but can’t wait to start working with everyone properly to be in the best possible shape going into next year. I will be doing my best over the winter to prepare myself, and I know the team will be working hard to ensure a successful season.
“2011 will be the first time in nearly 30 years that a Venezuelan has driven a Formula 1 car so I will be looking to get some good results in return for the support my country has given me to help get me to this position today.”
Frank Williams: “Pastor first caught my eye in 2007 when he drove a masterful race at Monaco. Since then, he has regularly reminded us of his unquestionable talent with some skillful wins, particularly during this year’s GP2 championship, taking an unsurpassed record of six successive victories.
“Of course, we already know Pastor from the time he spent with the team at the Abu Dhabi test, but we are very much looking forward to developing his talent over the winter and a fruitful season with him next year.”