Money talks in F1. We all know that. More importantly, though, it drives. With all of the sport’s attention turned towards Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and the decision he has to make regarding his future team, a certain Venezuelan has slipped under the radar and into an important position in the driver market.
Pastor Maldonado of the Williams F1 team is the perfect driver for Formula One. He is certainly rough around the edges, ragged even, but as a Grand Prix winner and often mighty qualifier, he is far from the worst driver on the grid. Beyond his less-than-desirable qualities, though, he brings money to a team. Maldonado’s entire racing career has been funded by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. Upwards of $30 million per year comes in the wake of Maldonado’s speed and underlying talent; it is hard to overlook that these days.
It would behoove a team struggling for cash, like Williams, to take on Maldonado for a few years to not only use his speed and earn some decent results, but to boost their technical department with much needed funds. That is exactly what Williams did. But, as his contract with the Grove-based squad is up this season, Maldonado finds himself in an interesting position.
Lotus’ financial situation has been a feature in the press over the past weeks. Their high profile talks with Infinity Racing (different from Infiniti Motors who sponsor Red Bull Racing) have yet to take the form of a contract, but Lotus are confident of a deal very soon. Should the deal fall through, or even if it is successful, Lotus should be taking a good hard look at Maldonado and his PDVSA millions.
If Raikkonen stays at Lotus next season, it will be for a much higher price. That was the whole goal of the Red Bull and Ferrari links over the past month. Raikkonen’s management wants to raise the Finn’s profile to make sure the team he ends up at is one that truly wants him. To offset the extra cost of keeping Raikkonen, Lotus will be leaning on the money they get from the Infinity partnership. Even then, Lotus would do themselves justice by taking a look at replacing Romain Grosjean. As much as Romain has a lot of promise and talent, he is almost habitually inconsistent. You can’t predict when he will be on or off the pace, and that isn’t something Lotus can afford for much longer. They need assurance, and if that can’t come in the form of pace and performance, it might as well come in the form of cold, hard cash.
If Raikkonen leaves, then Maldonado could still be a solid candidate as his replacement. While he doesn’t have the proven talent of the World Champion, Maldonado could still put in some solid performances. The only worry Lotus might have is whether fielding the two most “crash-happy” drivers on the grid is a good idea. Logic dictates no, but circumstances may call for other measures.
The future of Raikkonen is still unknown, but in a time when money talks louder than ever, it may be time for Maldonado to scream.