MOTORSPORT: Maldonado eyes Lotus challenge

Witney Gazette: Pastor Maldonaldo is relishing the challenge after signing for the Enstone-based Lotus team Pastor Maldonaldo is relishing the challenge after signing for the Enstone-based Lotus team

Pastor Maldonado has hailed his move to Lotus as a “fantastic opportunity” to prove himself at the wheel of a front-running Formula One car.

The Venezuelan was confirmed as the replacement for the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen last week by the Enstone-based team and can now look ahead to a fresh start following the acrimony surrounding his last weeks at Williams.

Maldonado enjoyed a surprise victory with Williams at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix but 2013 was a rank disappointment for both team and driver, with the FW35 earning just five points all season - Maldonado contributing one of those with his tenth place at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The 28-year-old claimed last month that he was “happy” to be leaving – and made the bold assertion that he had done more for the team than the team had done for him over the past three years.

It was a comment that ruffled more than a few feathers at Grove, but Maldonado at least now has a chance to back up his big words by joining a team that finished fourth in this year’s constructors’ championship.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for 2014,” said Maldonado, who will be paired with Romain Grosjean after the Frenchman was kept for a third season.

“It’s no secret that I have wanted a change of scene to help push on with my Formula 1 career and Lotus F1 Team offered the very best opportunity for me to be competitive next season.

“The regulations and cars will change significantly so it is a very good time for a fresh start. I can’t wait to be racing in black and gold.”

Lotus’ decision to sign Maldonado was influenced in no small measure by the major financial backing he brings through personal sponsors PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company.

Although Nico Hulkenberg was team principal Eric Bou-llier’s first choice to replace Raikkonen, that was only on the proviso a deal for the Quantum Motorsports consortium to take a 35 per cent stake in the team could be reached.

However, with talks with Quantum Motorsports having failed to reach an agreement, Boullier turned to Maldonado over Hulkenberg, who is set to return to Force India after a year with Sauber.

Boullier though believes Maldonado can bring much to the team, adding: “It is clear that Pastor has pace and potential.

“We are convinced that we will be able to provide the environment to enable him to flourish regularly on track.

“With Romain and Pastor I believe Lotus will be able to cause quite a few surprises next year.”

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