29 October 2013
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Maldonado to leave Williams for destination unknown
Pastor Maldonado is thought likely to leave Williams at the end of the 2013 F1 campaign, but where he ends up next season is anyone's guess....
Pastor Maldonado is almost certain to have a new home in F1 next season but, until Lotus sets its post-Raikkonen driver line-up, the exact destination remains unclear.
Paddock rumour at the Indian Grand Prix all but confirmed that the Venezuelan is set to part company with Williams, which promoted him to the top flight in 2011, with Lotus leading the queue to sign him. However, with Nico Hulkenberg the Enstone team's preferred option to partner Romain Grosjean, Maldonado is being made to wait on the fate of its negotiations with potential investor Quantum Motorsports. Should a deal be agreed, the 2010 GP2 Series champion is expected to have to look elsewhere, with Sauber and Force India being touted as alternatives.
Lotus' decision – or lack of one – has stalled the 2014 driver situation, with a number of potential moves resting on the choice between Hulkenberg and Maldonado. While the German is preferred for his ability on track, he does not come with as big a bag of dollars, something that Maldonado expects to be able to supply thanks to his links with oil giant PDVSA.
That relationship could, ironically, see two teams backed by the company, which has a longer-term contract with Williams that the Grove team, understandably, wants to see through to its conclusion. The rumoured arrival of Felipe Massa for 2014 could go some way to resolving marketing issues arising from Maldonado's departure.
Lotus' ability to sign Hulkenberg would also be boosted should it be able to claim another place or two in the 2013 constructors' championship. It currently lies fourth overall, 28 points out of second, but took a third successive podium finish with Grosjean in India on Sunday. The pursuit of a top three championship position, however, could be hampered by what appears to be a further breakdown in its relationship with lead driver Kimi Raikkonen, after a frank exchange of opinions between the Finn and the pit-wall when he was asked to move over for the faster Grosjean in the closing stages of the race. Raikkonen is already headed for Ferrari next season, claiming the non-payment of salary as one of the reasons behind his departure.
While the Enstone equipe dithers, however, the futures of such drivers as Paul di Resta and Esteban Gutierrez hang in the balance, with both at risk should Maldonado be forced to turn his attention to Force India or Sauber for 2014.
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