By Alan Baldwin
MONACO (Reuters) - Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado says returning to Formula One remains his priority and he is hopeful of retaining the support of state oil company PDVSA to help make it possible.
"We will try again and try to be back in a good team, to give me the chance to be competitive," the former Williams and Lotus driver told Reuters on a visit to the Monaco Grand Prix paddock.
"Plan A is Formula One. Then of course if it doesn't come, we need to look around."
Passing almost unnoticed in shades and with a motorcycle helmet on his arm, Maldonado said he was just visiting old friends.
He shares a manager, Nicolas Todt, with Williams' Brazilian driver Felipe Massa and was a Monaco resident until losing his seat at Renault, who had taken over struggling Lotus, at the end of January.
Maldonado now divides his time between Britain and Venezuela and has been carrying out tyre testing for Pirelli in Italy and Spain.
His tens of millions in sponsorship from PDVSA made him an attractive proposition for teams in need of a budget boost but he was also a race winner, despite his crash-happy reputation.
Winner of the GP2 support series in 2010, he became the first Venezuelan to win a grand prix when he triumphed in Spain with Williams in 2012.
Maldonado said he hoped to be carrying out more testing for Pirelli, with the details to be decided.
"For this year, at the moment, I'm just doing this. Just waiting to see where we can be next season," he said.
"We are trying to identify a good place to be competitive next season."
With major oil producer Venezuela going through a deep recession, with the world's highest inflation and frequent power cuts as well as worsening food shortages, the chances of PDVSA providing anything like their previous support look remote.
Cash-strapped PDVSA are also sponsors of the Venezuelan national soccer team who said in February they had not received promised funding.
PDVSA countered in April by saying its support had never waned.
Maldonado, who was a prominent supporter of the late Venezuelan socialist president Hugo Chavez, was still keeping his hopes up.
"PDVSA is a big company, supporting a lot of sport programmes in Venezuela. They still seem to maintain all the programmes...hopefully it will be no problem to have them back," he said.
"I am the only Venezuelan who is racing at this level. I have been supported since many, many years. The relationships are very good," he added. "Hopefully we can be together for more years.
"Of course the oil price is still a bit low...and when the oil is down, the country is down. For sure it's painful at the moment."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)