|© AP Photo/Fernando Llano
With the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who used the country’s vast oil wealth to his political advantage, Pastor Maldonado’s future in Formula 1 could be a bit shaky.
The Williams driver got his race seat with the help of the backing from PDVSA – Venezuela’s state-owned petroleum company – in a deal repeatedly questioned by the opposition in the South American country.
Williams, whose win in Spain last year with Maldonado stirred a controversy in Venezuela, is believed to receive $66 million from PDVSA annually.
Now with Chavez’s death on Tuesday, an election is to be held within the next 30 days to establish a new president and if the opposition comes into power, the Williams contract could be open to further investigation.
“There have always been critics who say that these sponsorships were not agreed with the necessary procedures and did not really serve the national interest,” noted F1 journalist Joe Saward wrote on his blog. “This latter argument is doubtful as Maldonado has become a key figure on Venezuelan sport and the next generation of rulers may well choose to go on funding his activities.
“The Williams team has a long-term rolling sponsorship deal with PDVSA which will be hard to break, but there is no doubt that Chavez’s death will create a little uncertainty in this respect,” he added.
Chavez had won a new term after an election in October last year, but ever since his surgery in December, his condition had been unstable despite the 58-year-old making several televised appearances.