• Williams driver’s support from state-owned PDVSA criticised
• ‘The comments are also something political,’ says Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado has dismissed criticism of the way his Formula One career is being funded even though his country is racked by poverty.
Maldonado’s victory for Williams in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix was primarily seen as a force for good in his homeland as he became the first driver from Venezuela to win in Formula One.
The 26-year-old was even congratulated personally by the president, Hugo Chávez, after a race that was marred by a blaze that swept through the team’s garage at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
With campaigning ongoing as Venezuela builds towards its election later this year, there remains opposition to the fact Maldonado’s F1 career is supported by the state-owned oil company PDVSA to the tune of £27m per year.
The belief is such considerable finances would be better served in assisting Venezuela’s infrastructure, such as building better roads and schools, rather than supporting one driver in a rich man’s sport.
Responding to the criticism, Maldonado said: “I’m very lucky to have my country behind me pushing me so hard to see me in Formula One. PDVSA have supported me all my career, and I’m so lucky to have them because that has helped develop the car, our performance.
“So I’m not worried because the whole of the country is happy because of the result, especially because it has come quite soon. From now most of the people are looking forward to Formula One, which is popular in Venezuela.
“The comments are also something political. We are in the middle of elections and people are free to say what they want. But the government is pushing hard, not only in Formula One and motor sports, but a lot of other sports at the moment, and we are getting some very important results.”