To no-one's great surprise, the Williams team has entered into 'a long-term agreement' with Venezuelan petroleum giant PDVSA following its decision to sign GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado to partner Rubens Barrichello in 2011.
The deal, which was formally announced during the team's promotional visit to Caracas at the weekend, was always expected once Maldonado was confirmed as Nico Hulkenberg's replacement, but has taken some time to appear as both sides worked on terms of the agreement.
Petróleos de Venezuela SA - to give PDVSA its full official title - is Venezuela's national energy company and the world's fifth largest oil exporter, notably to the USA. Of the estimated 3.3m barrels of oil it produces per per day, only around 750,000 are used by the Venezuelan market, with the rest going abroad. Venezuela currently sits second, behind Saudi Arabia, in terms of proven oil reserves.
“We are very grateful to PDVSA for having joined our team," principal Sir Frank Williams commented, "They are a substantial partner and can make a meaningful difference to our fighting ability.
"We are honoured that our new partnership was announced in Venezuela today while showing Pastor's fans the power of a F1 car. We are especially honoured that president Chavez himself witnessed the demonstration. On behalf of the team, we very much look forward to working with PDVSA and Venezuela and giving them some good results on track.”
The agreement was officially announced by the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez during a demonstration of the 2010 Williams-Cosworth FW32 at the historic El Paseo de los Próceres in the capital Caracas. The partnership will see PDVSA's logo feature across the AT&T Williams team, including the team's 2011 race car, the FW33, and the overalls of its race drivers.
“PDVSA is extremely proud to support this partnership and Pastor Maldonado on behalf of our fellow countrymen," the company's director of corporate affairs, Julio Gonzalez, noted.
"Pastor perfectly epitomises our country's passion and discipline, as well as our determination to overcome huge social imbalances. However, we are looking towards building a new, more harmonious and fairer society and become an example to the world. Pastor will fly our flag this year and carry the hopes of an entire country in this new chapter of his career.”
The Williams team took Venezuela by storm as Maldonado completed a series of demonstration runs in the FW32 as a prelude to his F1 race debut.
Having been invited to visit the country following Maldonado's appointment, the afternoon's run was staged against one of the capital's most historic backdrops, Paseo de los Próceres, with Maldonado completing a number of laps of the improvised track, concluding the spectacle with a series of doughnuts to the delight of the estimated 20,000 people believed to have witnessed the landmark event.
“It was unbelievable to share this experience with my countrymen - the amount of people that turned out to watch was just amazing," Maldonado admitted, "Los Próceres is a very important place, so to drive an F1 car there is special to me.”