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December 6th, 2010
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — For only the second time in the team’s history Williams has had to resort to a paying driver as it finally confirmed that GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado will partner Rubens Barrichello next year.
The first was Patrick Neve who brought backing from the Belgian brewery Belle-Vue in 1977, the maiden season for Williams Grand Prix Engineering. The second was Kazuki Nakajima who came along with free Toyota engines in 2008 and 2009.
Ironically, one of the reasons why Williams lost the Honda engine deal in 1988 was because it refused to take Kazuki’s father Satoru Nakajima as one of its drivers.
It is a sign of the tough economic times in F1 that Williams, which is losing several key sponsors in 2011, has to rely on a driver bringing money. To the team’s credit, it went for the most talented pay driver it could find rather than the richest. Furthermore, Williams did not confirm Maldonado [who has spent the past four years in GP2] until he had tested for the team and proved himself. The team also wanted to make sure all the financial contracts were firmly in place as Maldonado is bringing $20 million over the next two years.
“Pastor first caught my eye in 2007 when he drove a masterful race at Monaco,” Frank Williams said. “Since then, he has regularly reminded us of his unquestionable talent with some skilful wins, particularly during this year’s GP2 championship, taking an unsurpassed record of six successive victories.”
But is Maldonado more talented than the 2009 GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg who drove for Williams in 2010 but didn’t have the money to keep his ride next year?
He will be the first Venezuelan driver in F-1 since Johnny Cecotto in 1983/84.
“GP2 is a very good championship; it really prepares drivers well for F-1,” he said. “I have worked very hard to get to this position and yes, I definitely feel ready.”
What are his goals?
“I just want to do my best, to be as close to the top as I can and to get the maximum out of the car,” Maldonado replied. “The team is working very hard and I need to push to be at the top as soon as possible. I am a rookie but that isn’t going to be a problem. I need to keep focused and to do my job.”