Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado, who has been with Lotus since the 2014 Formula One season, is set to be replaced by Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, who drove for McLaren in the 2014 season.
Sources within the team and in Formula One say that Magnussen has all but signed a deal replacing Maldonado, who is sponsored by Venezuela’s national oil company, PDVSA and brought that sponsorship to team Lotus/Renault.
The move is said to be a direct result of a disagreement between PDVSA and Team Renault, which has meant Maldonado will very likely have no seat with the team.
30-year-old Maldonado made his Formula One debut in 2011 with Williams, and did not get off to the best start, with a retirement in his first race – that year’s Australian Grand Prix. He had a number of collisions and near misses that year, and quickly earned a reputation that has stuck with him – and the nickname he is now known for: Crashtor.
Magnussen, who was reserve driver for McLaren through the 2015 season after being replaced by two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, was let go of by the time late in 2015, with team boss Ron Dennis informing him of that decision on the driver’s 23rd birthday.
Renault, then Lotus, had said at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix that they would in fact be retaining Maldonado’s services, while co-driver Romain Grosjean had already been signed to the newest Formula One team, Haas F1, alongside Ferrari reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez. Former GP2 driver Jolyon Palmer will occupy the other seat at Lotus/Renault.
Despite this, it is almost certain Maldonado will be out of a seat this season, unless he signs with Manor, who are the only team yet to announce their driver lineup for the season. If PDVSA continue to sponsor the Venezuelan and he takes that sponsorship to the British team, he will continue to have an F1 seat, but this is not a sure thing.
Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso, McLaren-Honda, Sauber and Haas F1 have all confirmed their driver lineups, with only Manor and Renault remaining.
The Formula One season begins in March, with the Australian Grand Prix to be held in Albert Park on the 20th of March, 2016.