sport

Maldonado quells future fears

Pastor Maldonado is adamant his F1 career is not in jeopardy despite threats from Venezuela's new sports minister.

Maldonado has long been supported, either directly or indirectly, by Venezuela's state-owned oil giant PDVSA.

Since Maldonado entered F1, PDVSA have provided sponsorship, initially to his maiden team Williams and now current marque Lotus, understood to be around 27million per year.

But in light of Venezuela's current financial crisis, sports minister Antonio Alvarez has categorically stated "there will not be another dollar for motorsport".

Alvarez added: "It is unfair to use state money in disciplines that do not contribute to the development of sport in this country."

Alvarez's comments come in light of a currency scam that has engulfed motor racing in Venezuela, with at least five drivers involved.

It is understood the drivers have been earning considerable sums by manipulating Venezuela's strict controls on currency exchange.

Maldonado, however, insists neither he nor PDVSA are affected as he said: "The sports minister is not sponsoring me, and PDVSA is not part of his programme. They are separate.

"The oil company doesn't talk about sponsorship in Formula One. This was a communication from the sport minister, and that's it.

"The ministry of sport does not support Formula One, but they were sponsoring a lot of drivers before.

"Last year this had a big impact on motorsport because most of these drivers were apparently taking money from the government."

Whether Maldonado would be in F1 without PDVSA's sponsorship has long been a subject for debate, in particular given his tetchy temperament and dubious on-track record.

Lotus owner Gerard Lopez recently told Press Association Sport he has faith in Maldonado, who in turn has confidence in his own ability to deliver results.

That is despite the fact he has failed to score a point so far in what has been a tough start to the campaign for the Enstone-based marque.

Maldonado added: "PDVSA is not my sponsor, they are a team sponsor, and they follow me wherever I go.

"I have a good relationship with them as we have been working for a very long time together, maybe 10 years.

"I don't see any reason for that to stop, but if they do then it is not my decision."