Pastor Maldonado is set to leave Williams F1 team at the end of the 2013 season. A run of extremely poor results this year in which a solitary point is the only thing the team have been able to salvage has prompted Maldonado to rethink his plans for next year.
The Venezuelan came into Formula One on a five-year contract with Williams, with the oil company PDVSA providing some $20-30 million per year for him to have the seat. But as decent results are few and far between this season, Maldonado has taken it upon himself to look elsewhere for employment. This all depends, however, on the team and Maldonado’s management sorting out a contract termination, as there are still two years left for the Venezuelan.
Should Maldonado leave at the end of the year, all is not lost. Felipe Massa is said to be in serious talks with Williams about a race seat in 2014. After having recently been dropped by Ferrari in favor of Kimi Raikkonen, Massa has been on the hunt for a competitive ride. He has stated that he had talks with Lotus, Sauber, Force India and Williams regarding a race seat, but they have all died down except for Williams.
On paper, this would seem like a no-brainer for Williams. Felipe brings with him a lot of experience — something that is lacking hugely in the current Maldonado-Bottas lineup — speed, consistency and cash. This final point is of particular interest to Williams at the moment, as the money required to build the new 2014 generation of cars is going to be extremely high.
Massa’s commercial backing is reportedly in the ballpark of around $15 million, so not as much as Maldonado, but hopefully his experience can makeup for that.
For Massa, this move would be something of a last resort. He had his eye on the open seat at Lotus, ironically vacated by Raikkonen, but Lotus have their eyes firmly set on Nico Hulkenberg. With Williams, Massa would have control over a struggling team. The technical direction of the outfit has been somewhat aimless in the past few years, made apparent by recent results.
The poaching of Pat Symonds from Marussia this year should pay dividends in 2014 and beyond, but one man does not a successful team make. A resurgent Williams will only come if everyone is on top of their game.
And is Massa at the top of his game right now? He had a strong showing in India on Sunday, especially compared to his teammate who struggled after some opening lap contact. But the rest of the season, besides highlights in Spain and Italy, has hardly been of note.
Massa is undoubtedly in the twilight of his Formula One career, but he could be the perfect candidate to help Williams get back on its feet.