Despite having been linked to a couple of alternative rides for 2014, Pastor Maldonado insists that he is expecting to remain at Williams for a third year.

The Venezuelan - or, more specifically, the sponsorship package that accompanies him - was deemed to be attractive to rivals such as Lotus, although Williams has since confirmed that its deal with South American oil giant PDVSA remains watertight through to the 2015 season, apparently regardless of Maldonado's presence.

Such has been the lack of competitiveness at Williams this year, the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner began the build-up to this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix by intimating that he may even be prepared to sit out 2014 rather than be fighting at the back of the field. However, he appeared to have relented on that 'threat' by the time he faced the press with some of his peers at Suzuka on Thursday afternoon.

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"For sure, it was a hard beginning of the season and quite hard times for us as a team," he noted, "We've been working very, very hard, 24 hours per day, trying to improve our performance and trying to do something different to improve the car performance. At the moment, we find some way, but maybe it's not enough to catch the teams who are quite close to us."

After seemingly taking an upturn in performance last season, Williams has accrued just a single point in 2013, courtesy of Maldonado's tenth place in Hungary, but the former GP2 Series champion has generally found himself scrapping somewhere between the likes of Toro Rosso and the Caterham/Marussia battle at the back of the pack.

"We need to keep trying, we need to keep doing so until the last race, I think," he insisted, despite being aware that Williams - like its rivals - needs to switch a lot of its resources to the 'all new' F1 it faces in 2014, "There are still five races to go, [and] we've been quite close, even last weekend, to being in the points. We had some problem in the last part of the race but, yeah, I'll keep trying to get some more points before the end of the season and then we will see for the next year. At the moment, I have a contract and it's looking quite good."

Should he stay, Maldonado looks likely to be partnered, for a second season, by Finn Valtteri Bottas, who has proved to be a match for the Venezuelan for much of the year.