Two-time GP2 Series champions ART Grand Prix have targeted a return to winning ways in 2009 after confirming Pastor Maldonado will lead their title charge next season.
The Venezuelan, who has already tested for ART, will be starting his third season in the championship after enjoying a race-winning, but injury shortened, maiden year at Trident Racing in 2007 before finishing fifth overall in 2008 with Piquet Sports.
Well regarded for his spectacular driving style, one that has seen him run into trouble in the past (his collision with team-mate Andreas Zuber in Spain is a case point), a more consistent Maldonado was nonetheless the form man in the latter stages of 2008, finishing on the podium in four of the last six races to very nearly snatch the team title for Piquet Sports.
Naturally, Maldonado is delighted to be joining GP2's most coveted team and is subsequently targeting the title in 2009.
“I am very proud to be part of a team with the most titles and winners in the history of the GP2 Series and of course, I hope to contribute to winning the teams championship again as well as fighting for the drivers' title in the new season. ART Grand Prix is a highly professional team combined with an environment which has great human qualities,” two-time race winner Maldonado said.
“We instantly got along together during testing and I am sure that it will be a great experience for both of us: let's learn from each other and make a great team which will be ready to fight for both championships.”
After an indifferent couple of seasons, French outfit ART are looking to rediscover the form that saw them dominate proceedings in 2005 and 2006 with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at the wheel after finishing a disappointing fifth in the team standings last season.
However, having witnessed Maldonado's impressive early pace during post-season testing, ART team manager Frédéric Vasseur is confident he has secured one of the title favourites for next year.
“Pastor had an exceptional end to the 2008 season, scoring more points than any other driver and three time as many as the GP2 Europe champion during the last 8 races. There is no doubt he is one of the fastest and more complete drivers in the series.
“With his raw speed his experience of the series and his knowledge of the tracks it will make him one of the favourites for the 2009 championship. Pastor and the team got along really well during recent testing at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit. All the lights are green and our aim will be to secure both titles next season.”
ART's Formula 3 Euroseries title winner Nico Hulkenberg is expected to join Maldonado in the GP2 team, forcing the highly-rated Romain Grosjean out of a drive. Nonetheless, it is rumoured Renault will place him at 2008 team champions Campos Grand Prix next year.