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.

INDYCAR: Newgarden, Sato quickest in first of 2 Friday practices at Road America

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Josef Newgarden was quickest in the first of Friday’s two INDYCAR practice sessions at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion covered the 4.048-mile, 14-turn course with a best lap of 1:43.0477, followed by Takuma Sato (1:43.4729), Alexander Rossi (1:43.5603), Robert Wickens (1:43.5774) and Marco Andretti (1:43.8825).

Sixth-quickest was Tony Kanaan (1:44.0429), followed by Spencer Pigot (1:44.1080), Zach Veach (1:44.1306), Scott Dixon (1:44.1643) and Matheius Leist (1:44.2963).

Alfonso Celis Jr., making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut and with Juncos Racing, was 22nd quickest in the 23-car field at 1:44.9164, while Gabby Chaves was the slowest driver on the course at 1:46.4485.

While there were no significant incidents during the 45-minute session, a number of drivers struggled in several turns, primarily due to some lingering puddles from overnight rain, as well as on rumble strips that threw their cars into adjacent grass areas.

The second practice session today takes place at 4:15 p.m. ET.

A third practice kicks off Saturday’s busy day at Noon ET, followed by qualifying at 4 p.m. ET, the second round of qualifying at 4:40 p.m. ET and the third and final round of qualifying at 5 p.m. ET.

The weekend’s main event, Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, takes the green flag shortly after 1 p.m. ET. Make sure to tune in to NBCSN for the live telecast of the race.

We’ll have the full practice grid and driver quotes shortly. Please check back soon.

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