OCTOBER 18, 2013
Maldonado exit opens Williams door for Massa
Pastor Maldonado's exit at Williams could pave the way for Felipe Massa, the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo is reporting.
Correspondent Livio Oricchio claims talks between Venezuelan Maldonado's management and sponsors, and bosses of the Grove based team, are taking place now.
The 28-year-old has reportedly run out of patience at Williams, despite the fact his powerful sponsors PDVSA remain under contract to the British team.
Williams admits it has a problem.
"I've never seen a racing car that reacts so little to modifications," veteran team manager Dickie Stanford told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, referring to the FW35 that has powered Maldonado to just a single point in 2013.
One unnamed team member, however, said 2012 Spanish grand prix winner Maldonado has also been part of the problem.
"He still makes too many mistakes," the team member is quoted as saying.
"In Korea, we told him repeatedly in the last stint to take care of the right front and, if possible, stay out of the battles.
"But what did he do? Drives like a madman and ruins his tyres within three laps."
Maldonado also reportedly infuriated team bosses when he forced past teammate Valtteri Bottas in the final corner of the last lap in Japan, for a mere 16th place.
Both Germany's Auto Motor und Sport and O Estado de S.Paulo say Maldonado is eyeing departing Kimi Raikkonen's seat at Lotus.
Lotus would apparently prefer to sign Nico Hulkenberg, but that depends on the team finalising its 35 per cent sale to a group of investors known as Quantum.
"They (Quantum) are always saying 'We're coming, we're coming', but nothing happens," a Lotus source told Oricchio.
That is where Maldonado could come in. His sponsor PDVSA, bringing EUR 35 million a year to Williams, remains under contract to Williams for two more years.
But Oricchio said exit talks between the Maldonado camp and Williams are taking place.
Auto Motor und Sport's Michael Schmidt said deputy team boss Claire Williams was in Caracus recently, amid rumours PDVSA could pay millions to buy its way out of the deal.
Oricchio agreed that the exit talks have intensified since Suzuka.
The Venezuelan state oil company would then back Maldonado's switch to Lotus.
It is said Maldonado's manager, Nicolas Todt, is pushing for the deal to happen because it would open Williams' door to his other charge, Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian, who has reportedly put together a sponsor package worth about EUR 6 million, including Petrobras, is looking for a drive for 2014 after losing his seat at Ferrari.
Todt said: "Yes, it's been difficult for Pastor this year, with a car that does not allow the drivers to score points.
"They have to react and they have been hiring new people. Next year it (Williams) would be an excellent option for Felipe."