GP2 Series frontrunner Pastor Maldonado
has been on the fringes of a Formula One career for several seasons, but now claims to have high-powered support in order to take the final step into the top flight.
The Venezuelan, best described as 'mercurial' after mixing sublime race wins with errors of judgement more becoming of a rookie, will be looking to extend his GP2 points lead in front of the F1 fraternity in Valencia this weekend, but believes that he has what it takes, both in and out of the cockpit, to make the move to grand prix racing in 2011.
"I think this year the situation in F1 One is going to be clearer, for [sponsor] PDVSA and for me too," Maldonado told Reuters
ahead of the European Grand Prix, "We were nearly ready to sign with Stefan GP [for 2010], just because the car and team were an experienced strong team but, at the end, they didn't get an entry."
Now, having long seen off the challenge of countryman EJ Viso to be first in line to succeed Johnny Cecotto as Venezuela's latest F1 star, Maldonado claims to have the backing of the country's socialist leader, Hugo Chavez.
"Venezuela is pushing very hard for me, to have me in F1," he insisted, "All my sponsors are from Venezuela, so that's a big support, and [Chavez] is pushing, I know that. I am the closest and most ready to be in F1, so he's happy because of that and he's pushing."
Cecotto, whose son also races in GP2, is the only Venezuelan to have achieved anything of note in F1, finishing sixth second time out in the 1983 USA-West Grand Prix for Theodore before joining Ayrton Senna at Toleman in 1984. Sadly, after registering just one finish - in ninth at the Canadian GP - he was badly injured in practice for the British GP at Brands Hatch and never returned to the top flight.
Viso, meanwhile, appeared most likely to succeed the former motorcycle champion but, despite running the Friday practice session for Spyker at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, he never got the chance to turn race-winning GP2 form into an F1 career. Sharing many sponsors common to Maldonado, he has since found a home in the US-based IndyCar Series, claiming a best result of third last time out at Iowa Speedway.