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Williams strikes oil with Venezuelan sponsor deal
Williams strikes oil with Venezuelan sponsor deal
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jan 2011   |  5:30 pm GMT  |  112 comments

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.

Photo: Williams

“They are a substantial partner and can make a meaningful difference to our fighting ability,” said the team’s figurehead, Frank Williams. This is very true. Williams ability to attract talented engineers and to be able to develop cars, like every other team, is dependent on resources. This deal will make a difference to its ability to fight Renault at the fringes of the top four teams, rather than in the midfield with Force India and Sauber.

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.

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I think many underestimate what an uphill battle it is for independent teams to gain sponsorship at any time, much less when the world economy is in a downturn. Most blue-chip companies who are looking to sponsor an F-1 team want the cache of a team’s brand/reputation attached to their brand. Williams is a great team and has a fine pedigree, but not the same draw for sponsors that say Mclaren or Ferrari have. Not to mention that the big dogs tend to lure away the bigger sponsors. It’s no secret that Williams needs more money to move up the points pecking order. They need the means to develop their car initially and the means to develop their car in response to the other teams through the season. This doesn’t come cheap. I don’t understand the moral outrage. Take a look at the sponsors for Renault/Lotus in support of Vitaly Petrov. Its no more immoral than RJ Reynolds sponsoring Ferrari, Johnny Walker for Mclaren or Red Bull for RBR and STR. Not to mention major banking firms and insurance companies, they’re all pure as the driven snow too I suppose.


Prior to ’08, it would’ve been near impossible for teams to evaluate who were good and bad financial institutions. It is much easier to see the role PDVSA plays in Venezuela. The difference between tobacco/alochol and PDVSA is that those companies sell products to millions of people who should know better, whereas PDVSA is now the main funder of a single guy, in charge of millions of people, who should know better.


Sorry James. Didn’t mean to offend.

What car did Bernd Scheider

take you round the ring in?



Can we remember this is an f1 thread, not a political debating site.

There are a lot of sponsors in f1 past and present that many would argue an ethical argument about. Tobacco, alcohol financial services companies.

One of the reasons I’ve read James blog for so long was the lack of these mass arguments that are starting to creep in. And fanboy/defamatory comments about drivers etc.

Let’s keep this blog about racing, not politics.


Agreed. This one rather grew, but we want to keep the quality high and focussed on racing as much as possible. I don’t mind a bit of wider context, but political rants are definitely not on – JA


A possible political spinoff site in the making James?;-)

Have you been following the events/financial problems at the nurburgring recently. Here’s hoping it is sorted without closure. The greatest ever f1 track in my view, but clearly the safety aspect was always there.

For anyone else who’s driven it, my respect for those f1 drivers of the era was increased dramatically. The number of blind crests is unbelievable (on the nordschliefe)


I have. I know the track well, once had to do about ten laps when filming for a car programme an item on the Jaguar XKR. Horrible to driver around the Nordschleife!! I’ve been driven round it by DC, Norbert Haug (very quick) and Bernd Schneider (exceptionally quick)


There is one less team and two less drivers in F-1 as far as I am concerned


I find this whole thread ridiculous.

Any country/organisation/culture that permits individuals to accrue vast sums of personal wealth is contributing to the suffering of someone somewhere.

Calling Venezuela is pure hypocrisy, take a look closer to home and the toffee nosed rich boy in charge at No.10.

On the point of Williams being responsible for Senna’s death. Ludicrous!! In the early 90’s F1 was a different animal altogether. The cars were extremely unsafe to the point that if you had a major spill you were almost guaranteed death if not life threatening/career ending injury. Lest we forget, Senna was just one of 2 men killed that horrific weekend at Imola and dear old Rubens came pretty close too.

I bet Senna is turning in his grave. Shame on you!!


I think we’ll close this thread. [Mod]


Close the thread? I know it takes work to moderate, but I think you should be flattered that this is where the discussion is taking place. It’s not happening anywhere else.


Discussion always takes place here, but we want to keep the level high.


“Sport should not be kept away from politics, it should be supported, like happens in Venezuela,”

— Pastor Maldonado

I have a bad feeling about this. Good luck to Williams.


like the England world cup bid, totally apolitical – and what a success!


Apparently the average F1 fanatic has passion and free time to spare… I remember watching Senna die live from Michael Schumacher’s on board camera. It seemed quite obvious that there was a mechanical failure. Still, no reason to blame Williams in a sport that is intentionally pushing human limits in a potentially perilous manner.

chris (comrade ) green

As a committed eco-socialist I take umbrage

with the comments about comrade Hugo. lol

btw – isn’t it communist China’s credit that is

keeping the capitalist west from collapsing?

The F1 business is model is unsustainable.

Bring back kit cars!

Tangui Van der Elst

There is a lot of hypocrisy or ignorance in this trail.

While I have no symapthy for the Chavez regime, fact is that almost all major oil companies sponsoring F1 teams are involved to a certain degree with murky regimes. Total (Renault and RBR) makes business with the Myammar Junta, Exxon-Mobil financed the angolan regime during a bloody civil war. Shell has fields in Nigeria causing great environmental harm to local population just to name a few. That is just the crude reality so well done to Adam Parr and good luck to Williams for 2011.


None of the companies you mentioned own or are owned by the despotic governemnts you mention.

Sorta changes things, doesn’t it?


not really.

People might wish to stop seeing things in monochrome, the worlds a lot more colourful.

Its a little too simplistic to say one party good, other party bad, this isnt kindergarten.



This is off subject but do you have any plans to write a book about a particular driver again in the future?

I particuarly enjoyed your books on Schumy, perhaps Alonso would make a fascinating subject for one or maybe there is another book in Michael in a couple of years when is combeback i completed.


I agree, I’m reading “The Edge of Greatness” now and it’s a fantastic read. Maybe an extra chapter, or even a book on his time at Mercedes? That would be brilliant! – Although I suppose it might be better to leave it a few years to see how it all works out for him. I also read Maurice Hamilton’s history of Williams recently and can throroughly recommend it (sorry for advertising another author on your site James!). After reading that book I can really see that this sponsorship is typical Williams resourcefulness. I really hope that this give them more of a budget to push themselves up the grid.


I can’t say I feel bad about this deal (even though idealists will no doubt go nuts with conspiracy theories).

I think we have had too many German drivers in F1 anyway so it’s OK from my point of view if we get a more colourful grid in 2011. I wonder why Sato or Nakajima Jr. (both of whom didn’t perform on the level in all honesty) never got this sort negative reaction from the fans/media.

Williams is going through a phase, a process, it’s normal.


And yet Williams says hiring Maldonado is not about money? LOL

This is exactly why I have no respect for them; they lie like a teenager and expect you to believe it. I’m luke warm to the Hulk, but he’s proven to have more talent than Maldonado (who he trounced in GP2; 3 victories to 0 and 6 fastest laps to 1….in equal cars!).

The fact is, Maldonado is only there because of Venezuelian oil money [mod]


Your post was libellous. Please read the rules of the blog and don’t do it again. It takes up valuable moderation time. Thanks, Mod.



So you’re telling this man ‘John’ that his post was libellous.

You did precisely nothing about post 3 regarding the death of Ayrton Senna, which,if you look attracted several comments.

This person (Post3) must be a hater of the Williams team, who he accuses of being guilty of killing his favourite driver. This is unacceptable & in my opinion libellous.

Please be consistent.


Well you didn’t see the parts of this one which had to be moderated out. You obviously feel strongly about the Senna issue, but if you take the emotion out of it and re-read the comment 3, you will see that it isn’t particularly strong or specific. It states a point of view – one of many that are heard when this subject comes up, even in F1 circles. That is very different from the comment that had to be moderated out in the other instance – Mod


Good luck to Williams, I just hope they have better luck getting money out of PDVSA than many multinationals. As far as an index for a sound financial footing is concerned, not sure if they do one for quicksand.

Robert in San Diego

I am amazed at the general view that is being put forward here. It was ok to receive tobacco money, the industry that kills more people per year than AIDS, car accidents and general ills put together, but take money from a country of dubious political leanings is terrible!

Williams is a business in a sport that we romantisize because we love it. However Williams IS a business that has to survive in order for us to love it. For all the complaints I hear on this forum all I can say is GROW UP.

Having been affected by the turn down in the economy I salute Williams for finding a way to survive. It does not mean I like the way they have gone about it but sometimes you have to do what is necessary.


And yet, tobacco is still a legal product in each and every country F1 runs in, and is marketed there.

You are free not to purchase this legal product, just as you are free not to purchase anything from any F1 sponsor.

But get off your moral high horse. CARS kill more people per year than tobacco, alcohol, guns, swimming pools…

I’m awaiting your call to ban auto advertising in F1 – or I show you as a hypocrite.



Couldn’t agree more.


Great to have dictator Chavez as a partner..


I also deplore this sponsorship.

Chavez is a nasty dictator.

Yes, Venezuela has lots of oil. But it’s getting harder to get it, because the stupid Chavez has thrown out the useful oil company partners, and installed his ignorant political cronies. Petro production has been falling for several years.

The counrty itself is simmering, and will boil over as Chavez finds less and less companies with assets to take over and distribute to the poor. Food prices are rising there, too.

Yes, Williams stepped in it.

I cannot support Williams this year, and will badmouth them until they leave Chavez behind.

Bad, Bad Williams. You should be ashamed. Living off the blood of the Venezuelans….


Politics is obviously not your strong subject.

Stick to F1, There are blogs available that deal with F1, but some have been hi-jacked by poorly informed soap-box ‘politicians’.


No refutations, just hot air.

Good on ya.

But since you asked:

Ban movable wings.


I understand the need for cash, but this move is a disgrace. Doing a deal with Chavez spoils the respect I have for Frank and his team. Better to not survive than to sell your soul IMO. A sad day for this long time Williams supporter.


I’d rather see PDVSA on an F1 car than a company that helped bankrupt the UK and caused untold amount of cuts and job losses.


I have to agree. One million dollars gives shelter and food to a lot of homeless and poor people in Venezuela. To see tens of millions of dollars of those people’s money spent to the sole purpose of elevating the ego of a pantomime dictator is quite a shame. People should read about what is going on on Venezuela. If it all is fair game in Formula 1, how long until we start seeing sponsorship from the Colombian drug cartels and Middle Eastern extreme terrorist groups painted on the cars? Where does it stop?


Seee Maldondo isn’t a pay driver, the company baking him just happened to hitch a ride with Williams after they chose to take him, didn’t they?

Pretty much what others said about dirty money + 1.

It would be interesting to see fi they have a performance bit in Mal’s contract or otherwise ditching the driver may mean ditching the money. What a horrible time it is in F1 currently. Ferrari and McLaren have money. RBR have proved that even a new comer can rise to the top….. with money. Sauber and Williams with the experience and contacts barely manage thanks to money.


I was a fan of Williams when I was a kid in the 90’s cheering for Damon. Then I stopped watching F1 in the Schumacher era because I considered it boring (certainly it was better to get drunk with friends in the time of my life which I remember as 7 years long holiday). Since then Williams moved to the midfield and as I started following F1 again when Kubica got a drive. I cheer for whatever team he is in – now Renault, err.. no, Lotus, err.. Anyway, as a kid cheering for Damon I was not at all aware of all that money/politics business that is behind the scenes. Now I am a bit older and I am aware of it(it is hard not to be as I read this blog regularly), but I ‘ve got to say that back then it was much more fun being clueless.

I’d love to find a way of recapturing that kind of carefree feeling.


Along with the Hulk leaving I retire my respect for a once great Williams Team which now reduces itself to dealing with such culprit politician as Chavez. I’ve seen what’s happening in Venezuela and Cuba with my own eyes and don’t wish that happening to any country, unfortunately they’ve found the way to take their dealings to my favorite sport.


I have been to Cuba, I didn’t see anything wrong. Explain?


I’ve been to Venezuela. I also didnt see any of these things either. People are free to talk and demonstrate openly against Chavez and often do. He won a democratic election unlike the current and former British prime minister.

I am loving the morale outrage at the acceptance of Venezuelian oil money. I am sure once the Qatar royal family buy a team (more than likely Williams) there wont be a discussion about the human rights record of that country or any debate about democracy in that part of the world.

Having been to both Qatar and Venezuela I know which countries people are more free.

In my life time F1 has

been mainly funded by an industry that knew its product killed people [mod].

Seeked out new markets, ignoring any human rights issues of China or Abu Dhabi.

I am sure I could go on and on.

Spare me your morale outrage on this one please.


Oh, so you moderated that, then. Why just that one when libellous comments pass by unhindered?


Are you kidding me? Were you blindfolded there or did you really go? I was born there I should know. But Cuba does not have anything to do with F1 so I’d rather stop it there.

The fact is Sir Frank Williams sold his soul to the devil for a bit of cash which could be found through other, maybe more difficult means and got rid of amazingly good talent from Nico after just one year and one pole position.


This move appals me. Hugo Chavez [mod] nationalizes the assets of legitimate international companies that do business in his country. He has the morals of a swamp leech.

Though I’ve never really been a Williams fan, I did have respect for the team. Not any longer. Let’s hope that karma comes through and they have an awful time in the years to come.


What would you have said about Sir Frank’s deal with the Saudis at the end of the ’70s ?

We all know about that country’s lack of democracy, treatment of women, etc.

Yet it was Saudi money that put Williams on the road to success.

As long as the money doesn’t comes from the proceeds of crime, it seems legitimate to me.

It would be wonderful to see Williams return to the top during Sir Frank’s lifetime and if this deal helps to achieve that, I’m all for it.

It was the right choice to keep Rubens, just a pity about Hulkenberg : He should have gone for the deal to stay on William’s driver roster as surely 2011 must be Ruben’s last season ?


The Saudi way of life is one that has been around for centuries, theres nothing wrong with and theres no need for change. From the western point of view there might seem to be a lack of democracy or bad treatment of women however that is not the case. Saudi is a muslim country and abides by muslim laws and customs which just isnt compatible with western views and to be honest im deeply offended by your words, in any case the Saudi association was completely legitimate, the bin laden family run a very successful organisation with a legit source of income.


Ahmed : I posted the comment only as a response to those who criticised the Venezuelan deal. I made no mention of Bin Laden, they were comments made by others.

I welcomed the Saudia Williams deal at the time. I’ve also worked in Saudi Arabia and, for the record, I found the Saudi’s I met, ( naturally, all men ) charming, very friendly and most helpful.

You’re right : the way some Muslim countries interpret Islam isn’t compatible with the Western way of life but here is not the place to have a discussion about Saudi Society and others.

I’m sorry you feel offended. If you wish, I would be very happy to discuss this further in a private email conversation.


I wonder if a “long term contract” has any validity with this anarchist government.


Isn’t “anarchist government” an oxymoron?


Hope this allows them to bring some fresh talent to the engineering and aero departments, as well as enabling them to develop through the race season.


As a long time supporter of Williams, I am delighted with news of more money finding its ways to Williams.

James, do you know if the deal with PDVSA is part of the estimated $13.5 millions Maldonado is bringing to Williams or is this on top of that?

Do you also know how much of that money is dependent of Maldonado staying with the team? Is it reasonable to expect a performance close of 50% of Barrichello’s points in his contract?

GP2 doesn’t get shown on free-to-air TV in Australia (if at all) and can only judge Maldonado’s performance on results.

Taking four years to clinch the GP2 title and being destroyed by team mate Hulkenberg, I’m afraid he looks no better than Giorgio Pantano (who never found an F1 drive after also taking four years to win the GP2 title).

Kamui Kobayashi proved us wrong despite his GP2 results (although he won the GP2 Asia tile)

so let’s hope Maldonado can emulate his move to F1 machinery.


Excuse me…Pantano did drive in F1, for Jordan and went to GP2 from there…he has a great record in the lower formulae…Rosberg,Button,Alonso all rate him..


Hi onyx,

My point was that Pantano did not find an F1 drive after taking four years to win the GP2 title.

In the context of James’ article, I was using Pantano as a yardstick to Maldonado’s four year stint in GP2.

With regards to Pantano, it is not because you are gifted in your younger years that the form carries on into F1. Liuzzi is a great example of that.


I’m happy to see the immediate future secured too.

Had those good old bankers not made s royal mess of the financial system end would not have had to pull their sponsorship.

F1 has always been about picking your partners (however uncomfortable). If Maldonado is rubbish then judge him then.

But I’m an armchair expert, as are most of my fellow readers here. Let’s see how he does.

Ethically I don’t like the source of the cash, but nor did I like the cash from tobacco (and it’s associated illnesses).


To me, its not about Maldonado or the finances hes brought, which are obviously important, but its all about Williams. They was the team that fought for the titles when i first got into F1, and being British too, has made a fan out of me and I desperatley want to see them back at the top of the pile again. IF Maldonado’s money helps then il be happy for them.

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