Lotus confirms Pastor Maldonado for 2015

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We may only be in July, but the first driver confirmation for 2015 was made yesterday as Lotus boss Gerard Lopez revealed that Pastor Maldonado will be staying with the team for next season.

Although his retention was something of a formality, most teams choose to leave their driver announcements until later in the season. However, in an interview the Lotus F1 Team website, Lopez confirmed that the Venezuelan driver will remain at Enstone for 2015.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but as it’s half way through the season I can confirm 50% of our driver line-up for 2015 as Pastor is with us for next year,” Lopez said. “Despite the difficulties we’ve had so far this season, he recognises our true potential as a team and we recognise his true potential as a driver. We will achieve great things together.”

Maldonado joined Lotus at the beginning of the season after spending three years at Williams. The one-time grand prix winner has gained many critics over the years as a result of his aggressive driving style, but he has shown signs of immense pace and ability.

It has been a very difficult year for Lotus following a period of great uncertainty in 2013. Maldonado’s signing did ease the financial pressure at Enstone, and Lopez is looking forwards to the team being properly back on its feet next year.

“We have been able to take steps to ensure that 2014’s lessons have been learnt and we get back to where we want to be in 2015 – fighting for podiums,” he explained. “When we look at the team’s recent history we can see what is possible. In 2011 our car followed a unique development path with the forward facing exhausts. This concept didn’t give us the results we wanted but look how we bounced back in 2012 and 2013!

“Our 2014 car hasn’t given us the results we’ve wanted, so watch this space in 2015 and beyond!”

With 50% of the line-up confirmed, a question mark hangs over the other 50%: Romain Grosjean. In 2013, he developed from a crash-kid driver to one of the most talented starlets on the grid. In 2014, he has scored all eight of the team’s points, and is well respected in the F1 paddock.

However, with the team set to switch to Mercedes engines in 2014, Grosjean’s place may be at risk. Three of the four Mercedes-powered teams use Petronas fuel, with the fourth – McLaren – suffering a lack of performance as it is running on Mobil 1. Grosjean’s main backer is French supplier Total, but it is unclear whether the team will have to switch to Petronas, thus ending that deal.

For the time being though, both drivers will be hoping to do the best job possible and try to score some points at today’s German Grand Prix. You can watch the race live on CNBC from 7:30am ET.

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.