F1 Winter Break
Williams confirm Maldonado
Williams confirm Maldonado
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Dec 2010   |  6:16 pm GMT  |  95 comments

Williams will have two South American drivers next season as it has been confirmed that the seat alongside Brazil’s Rubens Barrichello will be filled by Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado. He is the first driver from that country since Johnny Ceccotto, who did 18 Grands Prix in 1983 and ’84.

The news is no surprise, it has been rumoured for months and when Nico Hulkenberg was released last month it was only a matter of time before Williams announced the reigning GP2 champion as its new driver.

In this respect he follows a proud tradition of GP2 champions who have taken the step up, after Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock and Hulkenberg. 25 year old Maldonado won six GP2 races this season, the most ever achieved in a season.

Frank Williams spoke of Maldonado’s “talent” in the press release today. But despite his success and undoubted speed, there will be voices suggesting that Maldonado has been hired more for his sponsor budget than for his talent. He has backing from the state owned Venezuelan oil company.

It’s up to Maldonado to prove next season that this isn’t the case. Williams will give him every chance. They have already started, giving him plenty of testing time in Abu Dhabi, in both the Williams and the HRT cars, so has over 2,000kms under his belt already. He will have the advantage of knowing the European circuits plus Bahrain, but the hard yards come in the early flyaways with zero testing allowed. This is where the rookies recently have found life difficult. Once back in Europe with some miles under their belts the good ones tend to come through as we saw this year with Hulkenberg and Kobayashi in particular.

Williams came good in the second half of the season, managing to overhaul Force India for sixth in the constructors’ championship and regularly qualifying both cars in the top ten. Barrichello told me in Abu Dhabi that he believes the team’s main problem has been driveability in the car from the outset of the new car stage and expressed confidence that next year’s car will be much improved in that area from the outset. His input has been very significant in that respect.

So Maldonado can hope to have a fast, driveable car, capable of getting him noticed. He will have a tremendous benchmark in Barrichello by which to measure himself. The Brazilian is still as quick as at any time in his career and very cunning.

It’s hard to second guess what kind of F1 driver Maldonado will make. Experienced paddock sages suspect that Maldonado could be a bit of a crasher in F1.

Time will tell.

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Interesting to note team managers voted the Hulk as the best rookie of the season, as well as placing him joint 8th on the entire grid alongside Massa.


While it is sad that money is playing such a part in the decision, we do need to remember that F1 is ultimately a business and that Maldonado has shown a good turn of speed in his career to date. Williams would not have given him the drive if he was not good enough, regardless of how big the potential paycheck from sponsors, because poor performance is more damaging to the corporate image. Having watched Maldonado in GP2 for a number of years now, I think he has a good chance of doing well in his first year so long as he keeps his expectations grounded and doesn’t try to overdrive the car. I’m less certain about where Hulkenberg goes from here, though, as his links with other teams compared with Williams are not as strong. With drivers like di Resta on the market as well I suspect the test/reserve seat at Mercedes is the most likely bet.



I’ll eat my hat (he says preparing his hat for eating) if he isnt racing in F1 next season 🙂

I genuinely think the Force India lineup may be Di Resta and Hulkenburg. Personally I think Luizzi and Sutil are potentially fast but nowhere near consistent enough to warrant a higher up the grid drive…

I’d be surprised if Hulkenburg is not being lined up as a long term slot in for Mercedes (i.e post schumacher, unless they secure Seb Vettel perhaps), and a Mercedes engine deal would fit in well with Hulkenberg (as it does with Paul due to his works drive).

Unless of course they make him reserve and give him a year in DTM…


Rather than talk about who is driving the Williams(and i think sacking the Hulk is a terrible decision)lets just hope they build a decent car,which is unlikely,as they havnt done since 2003/4.Can somebody tell me how Sam Michael still has a job?!What has he ever done for Williams?!Whilst being a big fan of the Hulk,Maldonado is no mug and way better than Petrov.Pastor ‘takes no prisoners’ and thats what we need in F1!!!


I think that’s harsh. He presided over the technical side when BMW was there and they were competitive in the early 2000s. With pretty limited resources lately they have been reasonable. That said, they really do need to get on top of the design phase and build a car which is competitive at the start of the season rather than mid way through it.


It maybe harsh and i dont wish to be cruel but when you see guys like James Key having pretty much instant results at Sauber and Gascoyne turning Toyota around within a year and his Lotus efforts one does have to ask what Williams are up to!I have followed them since they began in F1,have great respect for them and some of my favourite drivers have driven for them…Senna,JPM,HHF…perhaps ‘Old Father Time’ has just caught up with Sir Frank and Patrick…


Maldonado’s name was trending on twitter all yesterday. Dont think I have ever seen that for any other driver announcement.

I think we should give him a break and just wait and see. He was won GP2 and had the HRT closer to the pack in his test as well as performing quite well in the Williams test. I am not sure what else he can do.

Like everyone else I was as disappointed as everyone else that the Hulk got the boot but he was poor in the first half of the season and it’s around that point teams start looking for next years drivers. I don’t blame Williams at all for taking the money. F1 is a business. If you are going to take a pay driver may as well be one that comes with a GP2 Championship and a nationality linked with a growth market.

If media darling Karun Chandhok who is also a pay driver who showed nothing in GP2 in the same crop of drivers got the Williams drive would there be the same outrage?


lets face it, even with the quickest drivers, williams aren’t going to be winning races next year.

so maldonado’s money is going to do a lot more for their results than the hulks better talent. they are thinking long term, it makes a lot of sense. hopefully the hulk can get a force india seat, liuzzi hasn’t exactly impressed the outside world (tho FI still rate him)


I was really dissapointed to see Williams drop the Hulk, as I think he is very good.

What you have to take into account though is that, what would be the point of having Rubens and Nico there, and no real money for developing the car throughout the year.

Maldonado is clearly (IMHO) not as exciting a prospect as Hulkenburg, but he’s not rubbish either.

In regards to him having large financial support (albeit through a largely state backed company), is he any different from a lot of the junior programme drivers (Vettel, Hamilton etc).

What Rubens did provide last year, which was recognised from the team, is a good development path/feedback.

For Williams, the important thing at the moment is survival. If they are able to secure future funding in Qatar (which is the plan) they will be back to fight another day.

I say, give the guy a chance. There are plenty of good drivers with good backing that don’t win GP2.


Some of the invective poured on Maldonado and Williams here is a bit over the top.

F1 is a business as well as a sport, and if Williams need to balance the books in order to improve then getting a driver that brings with him a solid amount of sponsorship is a good option. He clearly isn’t a mug, so whilst Hulkenberg is probably better, he is a good compromise.

But also Hulkenberg didn’t always live up to his billing as the next big thing. he got hammered (and I am not exaggerating there) by Rubens, and didn’t break through in his debut season like Hamilton, or seem to have the immediate potential of people like Vettel, Kubica or Alonso. I feel he is destined to be another Sutil, a good solid driver but never likely to threaten the top step let alone the championship.

Incidentally I am surprised HRT didn’t get the deal with the Latin connection.


It’s unfair to compare rookie seasons from the past because Hamilton and co had a winter full of testing before the season. This has a huge affect on a driver’s confidence within the car.

And we have to remember Ruben’s is a very good driver. He was did enough against Button in 2009 after he got his dodgy start to the season out of the way to prove he has bags of speed. I think in the end the Hulk asserted himself pretty well again Rubens. Hulk got pole in Brazil – nuff said. And comparing the Hulk to Petrov who is in a similar position, I think he did very very well indeed.

Hulkenberg also would have known his seat was under threat quite early on when in contract negotiations, rather than discussing his pay, Williams were the ones fact asking for the money. This adds a huge amount of pressure. I know several karters who are suffering because they can’t find even 25% of 50k for something like Formula Ford. Imagine trying to drive knowing you have to find more than 15 million in sponsorship to keep your seat. That’s not a good place to be in.

I wouldn’t begrudge Pastor. You do what you need to do to get to F1. The advances in technology mean pay-drivers are no longer the unknown quantity they once were, and in terms of talent pool, everyone in GP2 has some sort of wealth behind them anyway.


There are technology and other links between Williams and HRT, Adam Parr and Colin Kolles get on pretty well.


Nikki Lauda started as a pay driver.


So did Michael Schumacher..


Never heard of him chris 😉


I hope Maldonado is ready for the backlash if he doesn’t perform. The Hulk left with his star shining after Brazil at the end of the season and Williams could get some flak for letting him go, especially if he performs elsewhere if he gets picked up, which I hope he is (I would love Hulk and Di Resta to be given a chance at Force India, Sutil and Liuzzi have gone a bit stale for me)


In a background of plenty of team sponsorship they would.

But surely people can recognise the fact that there is no point being the faster driver not on the grid.


Maldonado is a good driver. Sure, he has a big budget and took his time to win the GP2 title, but win it he did. I don’t think anyone expects him to come in and blow Rubens away, but Hulkenberg didn’t do that either – and he was possibly the most hyped up rookie since Hamilton. Even at the end of the season, Hulkenberg got a little lucky with that pole in Brazil but more often than not it was Rubens getting the job done.

So I’d expect Maldonado to be OK once he gets into it in 2011. The question is, will his money make the car better? We can only hope that the progress they showed during 2010 is maintained over the winter. Rubens was clearly a huge influence in their improvement, perhaps he (finally) has unlocked the potential that the likes of Sam Michael and co. have long been rumoured to have!


In the I.R.L.,drivers had smoke visible from their helmets as they carefully picked their way around Venezuelan superstar Milka Duno.I like latinas and she was a superstar,that is as long as she wasn’t driving a high horsepower open wheel racecar.

Pastor won’t be as slow as her owing to the fact that besides driving a Williams this is Formula One.He has to produce SOMETHING and quickly.Williams knows how to get sponsors,and knows how to get rid of them too.

And with the long list of greats Williams lost without a SINGLE tear,it may be a short run for him.This is the king of tough sports.


Nothing to add than what others have already mentioned above. It is indeed disappointing that a promising career of Hulkenberg will now have to take a premature pause to make way for another government sponsored driver.

Btw,i think Maldanado has already made a bit of history by being bald! When was the last time a bald driver ever raced in F1 ?


Denny Hulme was a bit thin on top but not really bald, Mike Hailwood too.

How about Richard Atwood?


Mauro Baldi, sorry everyone!!


A little pre-judgmental here isn’t it James? Let’s see how the young man does before we castrate him.


To be fair to the guy, even if he turns out to be a total failure I don’t think he should be castrated!!!!


Kobiyashi was a crasher in GP2 and worse not always that quick! He still crashes in F1 but at least he’s quick and exciting.

Barrichello will be a great yardstick for his performances though in terms of how close he gets relative to how close the Hulk got.

From watching Maldonado in GP2 over the last 2 years, I would say he doesn’t display much racing intelligence in wheel to wheel situations and often gets tangled up. Good when out front, less so when forced to overtake.


We’ve got another Sebastian Vettel then!


i’ll second that!


What does it mean to have a ‘drivable’ car?


To add to what James said above, an “undriveable” car could also be twitchy. In all cases, it would not instill confidence in the driver, thus not allowing him/her to extract the maximum from the car.

While a car may be theoretically amazing, if it requires reaction-times and abilities that surpass what is humanly possible to extract maximum cornering speeds, then it would fall into the “undriveable” category. 😉


I think we could plainly see last year (2009 season) that the Ferrari was a rather poorly balanced car and rather “undrivable”. Kimi managed to wrestle the car to one race victory as the car had very good pace but on a circuit (Spa)that he could set the car up for with a lovwer downforce configeration that would have lowered the aero imbalance. Thus at one race only did Kimi have a car that was more drivable due to circuit characteristics and downforce levels. The speed was always there, he managed to extract it at this race due to the car being drivable!


One that isn’t pesky in it’s performance or unpredictable. One that is balanced aerodynamically and above all allows the driver to get the maximum


Thank you for the response, James. Further to that, is there a positive correlation between the speed of the car and how drivable it is, or not necessarily so, i.e. the RB may be the fastest car on the grid but not the most drivable?


It really saddens me seeing Williams, which in 2009 promised so much of the Hulk outing him after only one good season, and William’s only pole in a few good years with the 6th or so best car of the year. I’ve lost my respect for Williams and hope Nico continues doing good. Maybe he could take a seat with Force India being a Mercedes option for when Schumy re-retires.


I’m always amused by some of the ‘over the top’ reaction people have the williams teams driver decisions, without seeming to take the bigger picture into consideration.

Sir Frank and the other board members have many priorities, not least of which is to ensure the jobs & livelihoods of the 500 or so staff they employ.

As good a Nico Hulkenburg was in Brasil (No one was cheering more than me!) or as bright a future as he may or may not have ahead of him, Williams needs to fill the whole in it’s finances.

They have always considered that money spent within the team improving the car is better spent than on driver salaries, and quite frankly they have never hidden from that fact. I seem to remember Honda spent a fortune on ‘superstar’ drivers with salaries to match but the cars were generally poor, build a good car & the drivers will come would I suggest be Patrick Heads moto!

Finally, as James has eluded to, Maldonado is not exactly a Yamamoto is he? The guy has won the GP2 title & even if it wasn’t at the first attempt, there are plenty of other drivers who have failed to equal that achievement.

I personally feel that Williams have made the very best of an unfortunate set of sponsorship circumstances, yes I liked Hulkenburg but for the moment SFW has to cut his cloth to suit. I would suggest, and hope, that with the gradual movement toward lower costs under the resource restriction agreement, the team from Grove will be well placed for a return to the sharp end!


I’m with you on that. Its all about survival.

If the bankers at RBS (and most other worldwide finance houses) had any idea how to manage risk (IMHO) and know their own assets Williams would not be in this position.


Gp2 success does not always translate into F1 success , but Maldonado is bringing a truck full of money with him. It will be interesting to see how his season compares to the Hulks .Jonrob makes a good point, although the driver bringing money may not have the one season and out problem as long as he has cash flowing to the team. I would definately consider Maldonado a ride buyer,pay driver just doesn’t sound mercenary enough to me .


James, You say that people beleive he will be a crasher, can you expand on the logic behind that? Many thanks.


I’m not saying that, it’s a view I’ve heard from some very experienced racers/engineers. Pushing too hard, that kind of thing


At least that means he’s a trier!

Could make it more interesting for us!


James how many other professional sports have a worrying lack of actual ‘professional competitors’ at the top like F1?


Let’s get it straight – Maldonado won the GP2 series, no-one is saying he’s not professional.


So hes coming from the winning championship winning formula of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. He must have a bit of talent in him then. I would expect him to be professional and perform.

I feel sorry for Nico, I watched him race in the years when he was in A1gp and he was outstanding


*Hulkenberg that is


Sorry, I should have defined what I mean by professional. I mean ‘in receipt of payment’ or ‘earning a living’ not just ‘showing a high level of skill’

Naturally, motorsport is less talent intense than other sports, so it opens the door for finances to have a more potent effect.

I am sure Pastor will do a good job at Williams. He has been able to afford copious amounts of bum-in-seat time that makes him quite a logical signing for Williams.

However, winning in motorsport is as much about competence than it is about talent. I personally don’t consider a GP2 winner any more inherently talented or better than someone that wins any other series. Reason being it is next to impossible to actually measure because there isn’t transparent and fair competition (Not that I am requesting change, this is motorsport).

But we now have at least three drivers publicly showing discourse about F1 seats coming at a high financial price. This has always been the case of course, but how long can F1 sustain it’s credibility if teams are more willing to put prices on race seats.

We can all watch the World Cup or Champions League and be pretty confident we are seeing the best footballers on the planet. Can we say F1 is the best drivers?


i think part of the problem relies on Gp2 costs…. if you see any footbal league. even in their feeder series players dont pay to play.. they get paid to play…. probably not to much. but anyway…..


Just the ability to secure a super licence &

get on the grid, if even in P24 should be enough

to put these guys above sneering level by us

mere bloggers.

Oh, well, life has become X factor hasn’t it?


Well, first of all, a top team will pay the driver, not get paid by his sponsors, so you may be pretty confident you see the best open wheel racing drivers on the planet when you watch F1. Of course having a good amount of sponsorship money can skew the balance in a way but only up to a point. Give Maldonado a chance even if Hulk is that much better, lets wait and see. I think it is important to have fresh and new faces coming up through the ranks, and maybe we can have a pleasant surprise in him next year. I am sure if he crashes too many cars he will get replaced mid-season …


I think the root of the problem is that the cars are too easy to drive. Before everyone jumps on me for that, I am not saying a monkey could drive them, but they are not challenging enough to really separate the pay-drivers from the paid-drivers.

Look at WRC and MotoGP; the pay-drivers are WAY off the pace, because those disciplines are more challenging (MotoGP is aiming to further increase this by moving up to 1000cc engines). F1 cars are easy enough to drive that the difference between a pay-driver and a paid-driver is often less than the difference from car to car. Put a pay-driver in the same car as Loeb, and he/she will be several seconds off the pace over a stage.

Villeneuve had it right back in ’98: more power, more drag, more mechanical grip, less downforce. More power will make mistakes more prevalent; more drag will cap top speeds and encourage drafting; more mechanical grip and less downforce will help the cars follow more closely. Of course, reduced downforce will have to come from shallower diffusers with less vortex-generating strakes. Perhaps making the courses more challenging would help as well.

Tiger Woods showed when he was dominating that when courses were made harder to break his domination, he would just dominate more. They then made courses easier, and suddenly less-talented players could beat him. Daytona Prototypes were built on this premise; make them easy to drive so the pay-drivers can mix it up with the pros.

Right now the less-talented F1 drivers can mix it up with the more-talented drivers because the cars (and possibly the tracks) are too easy to drive. Make them more difficult, and you will still see a few pay-drivers on the grid, but they won’t be in front-running cars and the 107% rule will likely take care of them anyway.

Note: This isn’t aimed at Maldonado specifically, but at pay-drivers on the whole. There have been several years where F1 people have said the GP2 crop is rather uninspiring. Perhaps the value of a GP2 title changes from year to year. If there’s a Hamilton on the grid, a GP2 title means a tremendous amount, whereas Maldonado versus Perez doesn’t quite mean the same thing. This could be due to pay-drivers shuffling aside more talented drivers much lower down the ladder, resulting in GP2 having a potentially shallow talent pool, but this indicates a larger-scale problem with the current state of motorsports as a whole rather than solely F1.


Maldonado in 2010 in GP2 proved he is qualified for a seat in F1.

Pastor always has had speed. He seems to be one of those slow to reach maturity to pick his battles, get a sense of what his car is capable of, and thus avoid collisions.

I don’t think he is another Petrov or Nakajima.

I think we could see a good season for Williams in 2011 in spite of losing Nico. He has talent, but his personality is dull. He is not the type of guy who could motivate a team.

The team did well with a Latin-tempered driver like Montoya. Maldonado could bring a different chemistry to the team.


I am wondering whether a certain Mr B.C. Ecclestone might be exerting a quiet influence here. This year we saw a Russian and an Indian, next year a Mexican and a Venezuelan; all representing potential growth areas for F1. Even if there was not a plethora of Germans in F1 right now, the country has not one but two circuits facing financial uncertainty at the moment; and Mr Ecclestone’s views on the end of Western Europe’s economic pre-eminence are well recorded.


“a plethora of Germans” ? Is that like a gaggle of geese?

I always wondered what you called them, though I would have thought it would be something like a “goose-step” of Germans, or a “kraut” of Germans, or maybe a ‘beergarten’ of Germans.


I think Maldonado is being underestimated. Today, if not for the sponsorship that a driver can bring, is almost impossible to enter into F1. Without pre-testing, as the previous GP2 champions had (Rosberg, Hamilton, Glock, Hulk), all new drivers are a risk for the teams, so money can cover these risks. And for Hulk, if he is so good, it would be no problem for him to get another seat, even more with the manager he has. Only time will tell whether Maldonado was worth, but as a Venezuelan I wish him well, and I’m sure He will give his all, for himself, his sponsors, his country and his team. additionally, with such a good team mate, he only can learn a lot. Good luck and go for it


I hope Williams go bankrupt next year because of pastor destroying cars that the hulk wouldn’t. I’m disgusted that money now means much more than talent because pastor isn’t even close to nico’s ability. Hopefully nico windes up at Renault or force India because he deserves better than brt or virgin or 3rd driver somewere


Glad to see such a balanced comment….

I think I’d like to see pastor prove you wrong next year.

Williams decision is based around finances, but this guy is not lavaggi for goodness sake.

People with more bravado thank Frank and Patrick have been and gone in f1.

They came to f1 to race, not as a Richard Branson or genii marketing gimmick.

So give them s bit of support. Williams are a race team, but one that needs to balance it’s books.


Wow just wow. I never wish anyone to lose their ethical business and your statement kinda sadden me.
You have to understand the bigger picture, which is all about enduring economic crisis. F1 teams are trying to survive. We are talking about a lot of jobs, not just one driver.


I hope Williams go bankrupt next year because of pastor destroying cars that the hulk wouldn’t.

>> William’s survived Nico Rosberg’s Driver error flooded debut season and associated “repair bills” and same thing with Hulkenberg he took almost 60% of season to come to terms with the F1 car this season and Williams paid both the Germans additionally repair the cars these gents crashed.

I have been Hulkenberg supporter since his A1GP debut. But the fact remains that Thanks to Ron Dennis making his protege spend endless hours in the Simulator, barring Hamilton none of the GP2 Graduates did really set the world on fire.

While Kobayashi struggled in low tier F1 team, his work in Toyota Simulator in Cologne prepped him better for F1 than GP2 years…


I think some people are missing the pay driver point. The rookie pay drivers will be contracted so that they will only receive a wage on performance and a small salary (I read somewhere that a pay driver got $500k when he brought $10m in sponsorship). It all boils down too having a good manager or not. The manager is a salesman, the sponsorship it out there and its a case of the team finding it, but if someone has done the hard work for you, you take it. The pay driver still has to get a super licence, not be a danger on track and will have targets to reach.

I’m pretty sure Williams has all of this in place. Maldonado can drive or else he would not of had any success and would never be known to Williams or his country’s oil company.

I guess there are a few drivers who don’t bring sponsorship to their team, but maybe it can be viewed that a certain sponsor will only sponsor a team if it has a certain driver……Does this make Alonso and Schumacher pay drivers??


“I hope Williams go bankrupt next year…”

That’s a bit too strong, vindictive even.

F1 cars take some money to keep them moving, Hulkenberg made it clear recently that he didn’t expêct to have to provide any of the $$$$$$s.


and why should he?? If I was risking my life to become a World Champion and bring the team the rewards I would be expecting them to pay ME!!! I would never pay to drive….that to me is a nonsense. like my above post says, Wallys are a desperate team taking desperate measures. Frank Williams has a history of shooting himself in the foot, while he has his foot in his mouth!! #:)


Frank Williams also has a history of working his way up from nothing to running one of the most successful teams in F1 history. And, so it seems, of sticking to his principles when all around him are selling thiers.


“and why should he?? “

Because Williams have lost some of their main sponsors this season (RBS, AT&T, ???), not because they have ‘cut and run’, but because the contracts have expired and not been renewed.

Why not?

That’s up to the companies in question, it’s not difficult to understand the RBS case. The others I don’t know about their financial situation but it is their right not to renew a sponsorship if they choose not to, and they don’t need to explain their decision to us.

However, Williams need to replace that money, or the team cannot continue. Maldonado appears to be able to help out with that while Hulkenberg has virtually refused to do so.

In an ideal world all the cars would be driven by people who are there purely on merit, and they woukd be paid to drive. Hulkenberg has shown enough that he should be one of those.

But the world is not ideal.

Ask the people of Greece and Ireland whose governments have had to ask for tens of billions of Euros to avoid bankrupcy. Portugal, perhaps Spain and Italy may end up in similar situations.

Formula 1 cannot exist in a bubble, imune from what is going on in the rest of the world. That’s why we have an in-season testing ban, engine development freeze, eight engines a year limit, gearboxes to last four races.

Drivers need to understand the realities, it’s all very well for the proven race-winners to negotiate a good salary, Hulkenberg isn’t in that category yet.


Unless I am mistaken, Maldonado was in his 3rd GP2 season when Hulkenberg joint his team as a rookie. They finished that season in 6th and 1st place, respectively. Hulkenberg outscoring Maldonado 100 points to 36.

What more is there to say?!


What else?

Well that same year (2009) Kobayashi finished with half the points of his team-mate d’Ambrosio. Yet no-one was disputing his place on the grid at the beginning of the year…


He just won GP2 is something else to say for a starter.

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