In wake of scandal, Venezuela freezes support money for drivers

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The government of Venezuela has frozen all disbursements of hard currency for race car and motorcycle drivers who compete internationally, according to a report from Jorge Rueda of The Associated Press.

One of the drivers affected is Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso, who was said to have been “ill” and mentioned trying to recover from food poisoning in a tweet yesterday. Colombian driver Carlos Munoz has taken over Viso’s No. 5 Chevrolet – which features backing from Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA – for tonight’s MAV TV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

According to Rueda’s report, Venezuelan officials are investigating a sports currency scandal stemming from its Cadivi state agency, which is in charge of helping Venezuelan businesses abroad obtain currency.

Sports Minister Alejandra Benitez told a local newspaper that an initial investigation of the disbursements found that one unnamed driver received $66 million and that her signature had been forged on 60 disbursement files for hard currency.

The freeze on these disbursements could have a major effect on many Venezuelan racers around the world, as according to Rueda, Benitez mentioned that more than 98 percent of her foreign competition budget goes toward motor sports efforts.

Venezuela helps support programs in a variety of disciplines such as IndyCar, sports car racing, and Formula One, where Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, like Viso, also receives support from the PDVSA oil group.

The death of longtime Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in March had been seen as potentially having severe consequences for Venezuela’s drivers, and the country’s economy has gone on a downward slide since then. However, PDVSA noted shortly after Chavez’s death that its support of Maldonado would continue.

Formula 1: Recapping the past week’s news

Photo: Getty Images
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The aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix has centered around Red Bull Racing and its two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

While one driver – Ricciardo – has garnered praise at every turn for a masterful drive from sixth to first in the second half of the race, the other – Verstappen – has again come under criticism for overzealous driving in the wake of contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

A recap of the past news week for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and the attention both Ricciardo and Verstappen have garnered, is below.

Ricciardo Surfaces as Outside Title Contender After Chinese Grand Prix Win

SHANGHAI, CHINA – APRIL 15: Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates after the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 15, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, few would have labelled Ricciardo as a possible title contender, especially in the wake of a mechanical failure in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

However, Sunday’s victory in China not only provided a number of thrills for onlookers, it also gave Ricciardo a major boost of confidence, and he asserted afterwards that he thinks a championship push is possible.

“I really feel like, I’ve said a few times, just give me the chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I will take it,” Ricciardo said in a piece posted on Crash.net. “I feel like I can capitalize on opportunities and I guess [China] was a good example even with a fat lip I am still pretty fast and pretty good on a Sunday.”

The victory also comes at an interesting time in Ricciardo’s career, as the 2018 season is the final one in his current contract with the Red Bull team. On the market for a new contract, Ricciardo mentioned that he’s seeking a two-year deal with whichever team he signs with.

“I don’t want to sign anything too long because I don’t know where the sport’s going,” Ricciardo said in an interview with The Times newspaper.

He added, “Ideally I’d sign a two-year contract. I think two years I can definitely be comfortable with and then see it from there. That third year will be the rule change so I will probably wait and see what happens then.”

Ricciardo also added that whether or not he returns to Red Bull is entirely down to the team’s performance this year.

“I kind of feel like if they want me to race for them they should contact me, but they haven’t,” he said. “If we win this year then I’m staying with Red Bull. It’s pretty simple. It’s really just about performance at the moment.”

Jos Verstappen Offers Constructive Criticism to Max

SHANGHAI, CHINA – APRIL 14: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing looks on in the garage during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen has again come under fire for overzealous driving, and not just from rivals this time.

Perhaps most notably, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula 1 driver in his own right, offered his thoughts this past weekend, asserting that Max needs to show more patience and a little better judgment in his overtaking moves.

“The overtake on Vettel really wasn’t on. It wasn’t possible. It was an error of judgement. In some circumstances Max just has to think more,” Jos told Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk, referenced in a Crash.net story.

However, Jos also praised his son’s driving style, noting that he hopes that part doesn’t change.

“I don’t want him to change his driving style. He passed two people at the start. He did that perfectly,” he added. That’s what we all want to see. But we don’t want to see these kinds of actions. He needs to have it under control. He needs to think.”

In addition to receiving a 10-second penalty for the incident, Verstappen also received two penalty points, bringing his total to five. A driver who gets 12 penalty points within a span of 12 months is automatically given a one-race ban.

Rubens Barrichello Recovering from Brain Tumor

NUERBURG, GERMANY – JULY 07: Former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello is seen before the German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring on July 7, 2013 in Nuerburg, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year after collapsing in the shower.

After going quiet on social media for several months, the 45-year-old posted a message reassuring fans of his health, and then revealed more in an interview with Brazilian TV network Globo.

“Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my head. It seemed to be exploding, I had to fall on the ground and only after a few minutes I managed to reach my wife Silvana to ask for help. I immediately realized that it was a serious problem,” Barrichello said of the ordeal in an emotional interview.

Barrichello, whose health has appeared to improve in recent weeks, revealed that the recovery process has been nothing short of miraculous.

“I feel like a miracle. (The doctors) told me that only 14 percent of the people who suffered this type of problem then managed to recover completely.”

He added, “I am still going through exams and so on, but I am honestly great and the difficulties in life are the ones who show us how to grow and how to be better.”

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