A day after its entry for 2012 was published by the FIA without a named driver, Williams has this evening announced that Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado will race with the team in 2012.
Meanwhile rumours that Finnish GP3 driver Valterri Bottas would get a race seat have proved wide of the mark, as the team confirmed that he will remain as third driver. But as an added incentive to the youngster, he will be given Friday morning practice runs at 15 of the races next season.
This is a programme which Force India has used very effectively over the past two seasons, preparing Paul Di Resta for the step up to a race seat last year and this year keeping Nico Hulkenberg sharp for a race return in 2012. It is understood that Jules Bianchi will be given that same opportunity for Force India in 2012, so perhaps other teams are cottoning on to the benefits of regular Friday running.
Team founder Sir Frank Williams said of the Maldonado confirmation, “Pastor has proven this year that he is not only quick but also that he is able to maintain a consistent and strong race pace. Pastor has been responsible for all of our forays into Q3 in 2011 and his race at Monaco was outstanding. Pastor has also settled into the team at Williams very well, contributing strongly in the factory and with our partners. He will play a critical role in 2012 as we rebuild the team and move forward.”
As for the identity of Maldonado’s team mate next season, it looks like a straight fight between Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil.