PDVSA president wants Maldonado at Lotus


President of Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA Rafael Ramirez has said that he is working to ensure that Pastor Maldonado races for Lotus in 2014.

PDVSA has been instrumental in keeping Maldonado in Formula One, sponsoring him throughout his three-year stay at Williams. However, with the team opting to hire Felipe Massa as a teammate for Valtteri Bottas next season, and with Maldonado seemingly happy to leave, work must now be done to ensure that he stays in F1. As Ramirez explained to El Nacional, Lotus is the desired destination for Maldonado with PDVSA following him.

“There is a change in team and what we are working on is going to Lotus,” Ramirez said. “For us, the interest is Pastor Maldonado, not Williams.”

Maldonado is thought to be going head-to-head with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg for the seat, but the German driver’s arrival appears to be dependent on a possible deal with Quantum Motorsports which is becoming less and less likely. With Lotus encountering financial problems across the course of the season, Maldonado’s backing from PDVSA is highly attractive even if the Venezuelan driver is far less talented and able than Hulkenberg, who is inexplicably still looking for a seat.

This comment from Ramirez also suggests that the on-going investigation into Venezuela’s investment in motorsport will have no effect on Maldonado, but with relations between the driver and the company appearing to sour with Williams, the Enstone-based team will have to assess the baggage that could come with signing him.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.