Pastor Maldonado took the time to speak to selected media today in a Williams phone in. The Venezuelan sounded upbeat, but also forward looking as he wants to repeat the success again as soon as possible, perhaps in Monaco,
“For sure we will do our best. The teams are so close, the championship is so close, but we are getting better and better,” he said. “At the moment we don’t have the quickest car in the track. But why not. F1 is changing every time, it will be difficult but we will try.
The Williams looks a front running package for Monaco, certainly in the eyes of their competitors; the car has always worked well in high speed corners, but with extensive set up work in Mugello and on Friday in Barcelona it now appears to also work well in low speed corners. It was comfortably the fastest car in the final sector at Barcelona, which with its tight chicane and slow corners is a good indicator of form for Monaco.
Maldonado is also an ace around the Monaco circuit, with two wins and two podiums from his GP2 races there. Along with Lewis Hamilton, he seems to be the fancied runner for many F1 insiders this weekend,
“I will try to do my best, it will be difficult but we will try,” he said.
I asked him about how Williams had turned things around from the embarrassment of last season where they scored only 5 points and finished ninth in the constructors’ championship.
“We did a great step forward because we changed a lot of things here in the factory.” he said. “The approach when we get to the track is completely different. I have more experience and I feel more motivation in the team. It’s a lot of things we are putting together. We changed everything.
“For sure (he’s surprised) and not only in the team I think everyone in the paddock is surprised at our performance. We didn’t expect to win that race, maybe top five was okay for us, but we got the chance and we did it.”
Maldonado’s backing comes from PDVSA, the state oil company in Venezuela, which pumps money into the team. A copy of a sales invoice allegedly from Williams for a £29.4 million sponsorship payment appeared on the internet last week and in the aftermath of Maldonado’s win and the Venezuelan president’s efforts to make political capital out of it, opposition figures in Venezuela have asked why the money is being spent by a socialist government on an elitist sport, rather than on schools and hospitals.
Maldonado handled this question adroitly, “I don’t worry. Most of the people are with us. F1 is popular in Venezuela,” he said.
“This is something political. We are in the middle of elections (in Venezuela) and some of them are free to say whatever they want. But this is a sport and the government is pushing hard on sport. At the moment we are getting the most important results for Venezuela in sport.
“I’m very glad to have a complete country in my back to see me in F1. PDVSA has supported me my whole career. We have one of the biggest sponsors in F1. I don’t care about the (pay driver) comments. I just push to do my best.
“I spoke to (Venezuelan president) Hugo Chavez and, in the name of Venezuela, he congratulated our team and saw our improvement. And for sure all of Venezuela take that success as (something) personal.”
Interestingly, Maldonado’s high profile is leading Venezuelans to take to the road to see him race, with has led to further criticisms of the way the Venezuelan government is handling currency controls.
According to the Financial Times this week, “Venetur, the state tourism agency, is offering Venezuelans the opportunity to engage in “patriotic tourism” by going to watch Maldonado race: next stop, Monaco. It is enabling Venezuelans to buy their all-inclusive bargain tours with local currency, instead of using up their quotas of foreign currency to which everyone is subject thanks to strict currency controls. This has enraged businesses, which complain that they are not allowed to buy enough foreign currency to import things like food and medicine, which are sometimes scarce.”