F1 rookie Pastor Maldonado is looking forward to getting the 2011 F1 season underway in Australia next week having finally ended his homeland's long wait for a return to the grand prix arena.
Although hopefuls such as EJ Viso have tried and failed to break into the F1 firmament on a permanent basis - the current Indycar regular ran a Friday test session for Spyker at Interlagos in 2006 - Maldonado finally achieved his breakthrough on the back of his GP2 Series triumph in 2010 and will line up alongside veteran Rubens Barrichello at Williams this season.
He will pick up Venezuela's F1 baton from Johnny Cecotto, who briefly enjoyed his spell in the top flight after swapping a successful motorcycle racing career for a couple of years in F2 and then graduating with the Theodore team in 1983. He then moved to partner Ayrton Senna at Toleman in 1984, but had his season - and career - cut short by a leg-breaking shunt at Brands Hatch.
After four seasons in GP2, Maldonado last year became the most successful driver in series history by taking six feature race wins in succession and, with the help of backing from state oil company PDVSA, replaced the hapless Nico Hulkenberg at Williams for 2011. He is only the third driver from Venezuela to compete in F1, with Italian-born Ettore Chimeri the first in 1960.
"It's great and a good moment for me, and especially for my country too, because, for nearly 30 years, we had no people driving in F1," he told Sportal
, "This is a really special moment and we're looking to have a really great season. The pre-season has gone well so I'm quite confident now starting the season."
Along with Barrichello, Maldonado will be charged with maintaining Williams' recent climb back up the F1 rankings, the team having pipped Force India to sixth overall last season. Despite the team struggling to live up to its previous successes, however, the rookie is happy to have found a promising berth for his start in grand prix racing.
"This is the history of F1 - my real passion," he admitted, "I'm really happy to be here at Williams and it's a pleasure to work for Frank and for the team. Because it's a really compact team and I feel really good. I'm looking to have a really good season and to give lots of effort to Williams."