21 May 2014
Maldonado shrugs off sponsorship rumours
Lotus F1 driver Pastor Maldonado repeats claims that his funding is not under threat from ongoing investigations into sponsorship irregularities in Venezuela.
Pastor Maldonado has played down suggestions that the backing for his Lotus seat could be in jeopardy as Venezuela clamps down on sponsorship irregularities.
The former GP2 Series champion's position in F1 has been widely linked to his ability to bring hefty funding from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, which backed his graduation with Williams in 2011 and switched camps to insert him alongside Romain Grosjean when Kimi Raikkonen left Lotus at the end of 2013.
While, ironically, results on track have not been what either team or driver would have been hoping for after Lotus' strong showing last season, the are other concerns surrounding Maldonado amid a currency scandal that has enveloped other Venezuelan drivers. While the F1 pilot has not been publically named or accused, the uncertainty surrounding the issue following a government investigation into funding has naturally caused some to bracket all drivers from the South American country and consider that Maldonado could be affected if the financial tap is turned off.
According to Reuters, at least five drivers have been caught up in the scandal, which has seen them achieving vastly inflated sums by manipulating Venezuela's strict controls on currency exchange, prompting successive sports ministers to order an investigation and halt all pending payments, but Maldonado insists that he is not affected by minister Antonio Alvarez's declaration that there be 'not a dollar more for motorsport'.
“They said exactly the same last year, but here I am,” the driver told journalists on the eve of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, “The sports minister is not sponsoring me, but sport ministry was sponsoring a lot of drivers before, and last year had a big impact on motorsport for the Venezuelan government because most of these drivers were stealing money from the government.
“PDVSA is my sponsor and, while I don't know the real situation between the team and PDVSA, I was with PDVSA when I won the GP2 championship and now, for sure, they are following me wherever I go. I have a good relationship and we have been working for a very long time, maybe ten years, so I don't see any reason to stop. But it is not my decision.”
Maldonado will launch his sixth attempt to score points for Lotus on Thursday morning, as practice starts for the Monaco Grand Prix. Team-mate Grosjean opened the Enstone squad's account last time out, with eighth place in the Spanish Grand Prix.
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