Relationship between Maldonado and Williams hits new low

Leave a comment

The relationship between Pastor Maldonado and Williams may have deteriorated drastically over the past few months, but it reached a new low after qualifying for the United States Grand Prix (race live on NBC from 1pm ET) when the Venezuelan driver accused his team of sabotaging his car.

After testing a new configuration of exhaust in Abu Dhabi, the team showed signs of an improved pace during practice on Friday and Saturday morning, but Maldonado failed to live up to this hype during qualifying. Despite being held up by Esteban Gutierrez, he still failed to post a quick enough time to secure a place in Q2. Curiously though, teammate Valtteri Bottas finished Q1 as the quickest driver on track ahead of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and a full 1.5 seconds faster than Maldonado.

When asked about the time difference between himself and his teammate in Q1, Maldonado inferred to journalists in Austin that all may not be as it seems.

“I think in my car somebody is playing with the pressure and the temperatures,” he said. “You need to ask the team, the guys that are working on the car, it is quite clear.”

However, chief engineer Xevi Pujolar believes that the problems were due to the temperature of Maldonado’s tires.

“We didn’t quite get the tire performance with Pastor, but despite starting eigteenth he always makes a good start and fights through on the opening laps, so we still expect him to move forward in the race,” Pujolar said.

This is the latest in a number of recent outbursts by Maldonado against the team, and he is poised to leave at the end of the year to make way for Felipe Massa. However, he said that he was happy to be leaving as he looks to join Lotus as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement.

The Venezuelan driver is unlikely to have won any friends within the team though by making these allegations, nor will he be impressing the teams considering him for a drive in 2014.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.