The Williams team is in Venezuela at the moment and today the team announced the long-awaited tie up with PDVSA, the state owned oil company. It is a massive boost to the team, which said goodbye to important sponsors RBS and Philips at the end of last season.
Venezuela has the world’s sixth largest oil reserves and is in the top ten oil exporters. It has by far the largest oil business of any Central or South American country.
The deal is very much the work of the new Williams chairman Adam Parr who has been aggressively pursuing investment in both Venezuela and Qatar in the last six months.
The arrival of Pastor Maldonado has changed the tone at Williams, which is now a very South American focussed team. Maldonado’s team mate next season is Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, starting his 19th season in F1.
Maldonado is very much flying the flag for a country in which having a sportsman on a world stage is a major deal.
PDVSA has supported Maldonado’s career through the feeder series and the substantial long-term backing undoubtedly swung the drive his way in competition with Nico Hulkenberg.
Williams is F1’s great survivor team. So many have gone by the wayside over the years, but Williams has always proven Darwin’s theory of adapting to survive in a competitive and hostile world.
The team has always been adaptable when it comes to selling the team to sponsors and has gone through many phases of sponsorship; Saudi money in the early 1980s, Japanese money in the Honda years and an ingenious BMW total buyout of the livery in the early 2000s.
There were a couple of tobacco phases, with Camel and then Rothmans, co-inciding with the team’s most successful period from 1991-97, but on the whole the team was always far less reliant on tobacco money than McLaren or Ferrari.
Yesterday Maldonado did a demonstration drive of the Williams car on a special road course in Caracas in the presence of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and a crowd of thousands.
He will start testing in earnest at the start of February in Valencia.