Pastor Maldonado will test with the Williams F1 team at next month's Abu Dhabi 'young drivers' session, further strengthening suggestions that he will partner veteran Rubens Barrichello in the line-up next season.
The new GP2 Series champion is rumoured to have signed a deal with the Grove-based squad that would see him finally graduate to F1 after four years in the feeder category, but neither Maldonado or Williams had come forward to confirm the speculation, until the announcement of the team's Abu Dhabi line-up included the Venezuelan alongside new F2 champion Dean Stoneman. With current test and development driver Valtteri Bottas being confirmed in that role for next season, there would appear to be little reason to test Maldonado unless he was being considered as replacement for predecessor and former GP2 team-mate Nico Hulkenberg for 2011.
Hulkenberg, meanwhile continues to give his best for Williams in the hope that he can secure a return to the line-up, admitting that he has yet to learn his fate from anyone in the team. Co-owner Patrick Head admitted over the Korean GP weekend that the team's line-up would be a matter of discussion for the board, and that financial considerations would be paramount.
Maldonado is reportedly able to bring $15m from Venezuelan state petroleum giant PDVSA, while Hulkenberg is refusing to become dependent on sponsorship, insisting that his talent should speak for itself. Head, incidentally, believes that the young German is too good to be lost to F1, even if he is unable to persuade Williams to keep him on next season.
“We are delighted to have the two reigning champions of the two strongest feeder series for F1 in the FW32 for these two test days," team principal Frank Williams commented, before moving on to commend the young Finn that he hired a year ago.
"Valtteri fought hard for his third place in this year's F3 Euroseries, taking two wins and six podiums in a very competitive year. He also set a record with his second consecutive victory in the F3 Masters. He has worked hard both on and off the track and learnt a great deal. We continue to see talent, discipline and dedication and are happy to help foster that further in 2011."