Williams to lose PDVSA sponsorship

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Williams have confirmed they will lose the backing of Venezuelan state petroleum firm PDVSA after arranging to replace Pastor Maldonado at the team next year.

Maldonado will lose his seat to Felipe Massa, who is joining the team from Ferrari. The team have run PDVSA logos on their cars since hiring Maldoando in 2011.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams told Reuters that PDVSA’s logos “won’t be on the car for next year”.

“There is no [further] connection with PDVSA as obviously Pastor is now leaving the team.”

Williams intend to exploit sponsorship opportunities in Brazil after hiring Massa. “We’ve been operating and looking for sponsorship in the Brazilian market for a long time now, we’ve had great Brazilian partners in the past,” said Williams. “So we will be going out to Brazil to see what we can do out there.”

Recent Brazilian drivers to race for Williams include Bruno Senna (2012) and Rubens Barrichello (2010 to 2011).

Whether Maldonado will continue to receive backing from PDVSA following the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez earlier this year has been a source of speculation. The sponsorship of Venezuelan racing drivers including IndyCar pilot EJ Viso was also placed in doubt following a controversy over the misuse of funds last month.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.