Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who partners France’s Romain Grosjean at Lotus, has had his seat renewed through the 2016 season, the team announced after the Singapore Grand Prix.
Maldonado, who was previously with Williams, has been at the Enstone-based Lotus since the end of 2013 and began driving for them the following season. It will be his third year with the team, during which time he has had 3 points finishes in 32 races, retiring from 13.
The 30-year-old released a statement following the announcement, in which he said “It’s great that the team can confirm my position as race driver for 2016. Obviously, there has been a lot of speculation about the future and whilst I have remained focused on my job on track it is also positive to know that my future is confirmed. This season has presented us with some challenges but the quality of the squad at Enstone is clear to see. I really feel part of the family at Enstone and I’m looking forward to building on the work done this year to deliver better results in 2016.”
Lotus have been the subject of speculation all season – the financially embattled team were said to be on the verge of being bought over by French automakers Renault, who make the power units for Red Bull Racing and their sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso. Renault were believed to have decided to return to Formula 1 as a works team; this is when a team manufacture their own power units and chassis.
It appears that Lotus have a new lease of life as the confirmation of their driver seems tacit confirmation of the team remaining as it is, at least for another season. Maldonado himself is sponsored by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, and brings sponsorship to the team. His teammate Grosjean has not had his seat confirmed yet, and there has been speculation that the Frenchman will join Formula One’s newest entrant, American team Haas, when they make their debut in the 2016 season. This is still a rumour, however.
Grosjean, who took a podium earlier this year at the Belgian Grand Prix following a last-minute tyre blowup for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, has so far remained noncommital on the rumours.
At the Singapore Grand Prix, which concluded yesterday with a win for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Maldonado attempted to block the inside line to McLaren’s Jenson Button, causing the Briton to collide with him. The McLaren car would be retired after gearbox issues and front wing damage as a result of the collision, and Button later criticised Maldonado’s driving as being “very strange.”
Following a retirement for Grosjean and a non-points finish for Maldonado, Lotus did not have a good performance at the Grand Prix, although rumours of a Renault buyout appear to have been dispelled for now.