State owned Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter has signed a very generous (rumors say $16m) sponsorship deal with the renowned AT&T Williams F1 racing team, new home of Venezuelan driver and reigning GP2 Series champion Pastor Maldonado.
World presidents are not usually the ones that announce Formula 1 deals, but then again not many are prone to nationalizing oil companies either.
But Hugo Chávez announced to a very large crowd gathered at the emblematic “Paseo de los Próceres” monument plaza in Caracas, where a track was improvised for Maldonado to drive the British team’s 2010 FW32 for a few laps.
“It was unbelievable to share this experience with my fellow Venezuelans,” said Maldonado. “The amount of people that turned out to watch was just amazing. Los Próceres is a very important place, so to drive a Formula One car there is special to me.”
Maldonado will drive for the same team that Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya drove for in the early 2000’s and will replace German Nico Hulkenberg through the 2011 season, the first one in almost 30 years where neither driver hails from Europe; Maldonado’s team-mate is none other than probably the most experienced driver in F1 today, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
The “donation” that came with their new driver, couldn’t come at a better time for AT&T Williams, who lost several of their sponsors in 2010, including the giant RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland).
“They are a substantial partner and can make a meaningful difference to our fighting ability,” Team owner Frank Williams said.