Pastor Maldonado could be set to lose his place with the Renault F1 team due to late payments from primary sponsor PDVSA, with Kevin Magnussen being lined up to potentially replace him.
The former race winner was announced with the team, formerly known as Lotus, in September but his place was largely dependent on the substantial backing he received from his native Venezuela through state-sponsored oil firm PDVSA.
Though Renault has previously suggested it would retain Maldonado and Jolyon Palmer – both of which were signed before the French firm completed its takeover of Lotus -, the BBC
is reporting that payments from PDVSA are several weeks overdue.
As it stands, Renault says it is in contact with Maldonado, it adds that there are no immediate changes to the driver line-up for the time being.
"It's speculation at the moment. We have a contract with Pastor. That is the current situation. Who knows what could happen by Australia but, at the moment, we are going forward with Pastor and Jolyon."
Despite this, paddock sources suggest Renault has already made contact with former McLaren driver Magnussen over a role and has visited the factory. The Dane was previously contacted by Renault over a possible drive for 2016 but needed to provide funding, though it seems he will be the first in line should Maldonado be dropped.
PDVSA's reported late payments come on the back of growing unease in Venezuela, which is suffering economic instability in the wake of dwindling oil prices.
Though he is a former GP2 Series champion and claimed a shock win in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix for Williams, Maldonado's reputation for incidents has earned him an unenviable reputation during his time in F1, though the wealth he provides – upwards of £30 million reportedly - made him an attractive prospect for the cash-strapped Lotus team he has raced with since 2014.
Whilst Renault has suggested Maldonado's money was a key factor in its decision to take Lotus over, Cyril Abiteboul recently said the French manufacturer has fully committed to F1 itself financially.
Though he has been linked with a DTM drive with Mercedes, Magnussen remains without a seat for the 2016 season having been forced to sit out the entirety of 2015. The former FR3.5 champion graduated to F1 with McLaren in 2014, but was demoted to a reserve role in 2015 before being released altogether in October.