|© Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic/Williams
Just a few short days after attending the state funeral of Hugo Chavez -- both Venezuela's president and his most important financial supporter -- Williams driver Pastor Maldonado finds himself on the other side of the world preparing for the Formula 1 season opener.
In a race preparation as traumatic as it is unique, Maldonado finds himself both mourning the man who did more than anyone to help him into F1 while determined to carry on Chavez's efforts to make Venezuelans a force in world motorsport.
"He was a great supporter of Formula 1, supporting not only my career but there are about 50 drivers around the world as well," Maldonado said of Chavez, adding that he and those drivers "are trying to do our best to compensate Venezuela with some good results.
"It's really sad for all the country, for myself as well. We need to keep pushing very hard especially for the country, which is having a great moment in terms of sport."
Chavez was instrumental in elevating Maldonado into F1 by directing the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA to provide significant sponsorship funds to Williams. Outside of an elite handful of drivers in F1, every competitor needs to bring significant personal sponsorship with them in order to get a drive.
Chavez's death prompted speculation that the PDVSA deal will end, and likely Maldonado's F1 career with it, but the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner was both defiant and determined that the financial support should continue.
"Many in the media say everything is gone for me, but here I am," Maldonado said. "We've started now and we need to carry on.
"Before, people knew Venezuela for oil and the girls. Now it has changed a lot."
While Maldonado mourns Chavez, the rest of the Williams team and many others in F1 were also mourning the death last week of Lady Virginia 'Ginny' Williams, the wife of team principal Sir Frank Williams. She provided important financial as well as moral support to Sir Frank when he was turning the fledgling team of the early 1970s in the sport's dominant outfit at times in the 1980s and 1990s.