Williams has completed its driver line-up for the 2011 F1 season after announcing the signing of reigning GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado.
The 25-year-old Venezuelan will partner the previously announced Rubens Barrichello
for his debut season and replaces the man who he also usurped as the winner of the GP2 title in the shape of Nico Hulkenberg, who departed after a single season with the Grove-based outfit.
Maldonado's signing comes as no surprise after months of speculation that he would secure a drive with Williams
thanks to the financial backing he can bring from his homeland.
Having driven for the team during the recent Young Driver test in Abu Dhabi, Maldonado will now get the chance to sample Williams' 2011 car for the first time when testing resumes in February.
“I feel very privileged that Williams
has selected me as one of their race drivers,” he said. “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 thirty years that a Venezuelan has driven a Formula One 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.”
Maldonado clinched the 2010 GP2 title in style with seven wins, which included victory in six successive feature races.
However, team boss Frank Williams
insists that Maldonado has been on his radar for some time before that and would be a valuable addition to the team.
“Pastor first caught my eye in 2007 when he drove a masterful race at Monaco,” he said. “Since then, he has regularly reminded us of his unquestionable talent with some skilful 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.”
Valtteri Bottas will stay on as test driver for the 2011 season.