Lotus confirm Pastor Maldonado in their 2014 Formula One driver line-up
- Credit: Archant
Hethel-backed Lotus have confirmed Pastor Maldonado will driver for the Enstone outfit next season, replacing Finnish star Kimi Raikkonen.
The Venezuelan driver was dropped by Williams after a disappointing season but will now get a second chance to prove himself in Formula One with Lotus, who have struggled financially in recent years and were unable to secure a deal to sign Nico Hulkenberg.
Maldonado will partner Romain Grosjean next season, who grew into one of the form drivers on the grid over the second half of 2013 and will be hoping to challenge for race wins – car-willing – next season.
Maldonado's backing from Venezuela's state-owned oil and gas giant PDVSA will have been the large carrot devoured by Lotus, who are still waiting on the Quantum Motorsports consortium to agree a deal to take a 35pc stake in the team.
That ultimately left Hulkenberg out of reach – with Force India now his likely destination.
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'It is with great pleasure that we can formally confirm that Romain Grosjean will continue with Lotus next season,' said team principal Eric Boullier. 'He has really made the most of his tremendous talent over the latter part of the 2013 season and will be a fantastic asset to our 2014 challenge.
'Romain will be joined by Pastor. It is clear that Pastor has pace and potential – demonstrated by his 2010 GP2 Series title success and then through strong races throughout his career at Williams – and we are convinced that we will be able to provide the correct environment to enable him to flourish regularly on track.
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'With Romain and Pastor, I believe Lotus will be able to cause quite a few surprises next year.'
Maldonado's three years at Williams represented a big step up from GP2, with his shock victory in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona the lone success.
The 28-year-old is being replaced at Williams by Felipe Massa, after a season in which Maldonado finished behind his rookie team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings – the year even ended with Maldonado accusing his own team of sabotaging his race prospects in the penultimate race in Austin.
'It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus for 2014,' said Maldonado. 'It's no secret that I have wanted a change of scene to help push on with my Formula One career and Lotus offered the very best opportunity for me to be competitive next season.
'The regulations and cars will change significantly so it is a very good time for a fresh start. I can't wait to be racing in black and gold.'
As for Grosjean, he added: 'This past year has been tremendously satisfying for me. We have worked well together, and I know everyone at Enstone is motivated to continue the fight for every last point available.'