Pastor Maldonado’s Formula 1 future is in doubt due to a change in the political landscape of his native Venezuela and economic problems gripping the country that could impact his financial backing, according to reports.
First reported by The Telegraph and since followed up by a number of other publications, Maldonado’s place with Renault in 2016 is uncertain despite the French marque previously confirming that he would be retained following its takeover of Lotus F1 Team.
Maldonado has been backed throughout his racing career by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, enjoying support from Hugo Chavez until his death in 2013 and incumbent president Nicolas Maduro.
However, due to the worldwide fall in the price of oil and the recent defeat of Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela in the parliamentary elections, the significant funding that Maldonado receives has now been brought into question.
PDVSA is reportedly overdue on its most recent payment, prompting officials from Renault to venture to Venezuela in a bid to resolve the issue and strike a new agreement according to Autosport.
Should the situation prove to be unresolvable, former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen has reportedly been lined up to take Maldonado’s seat and has already been given a tour of the team’s facility at Enstone.
Magnussen was released from his role as McLaren reserve driver at the end of 2015, and has since tested Porsche’s LMP1 car, the 919 Hybrid, and a Mercedes DTM car, but would jump at a chance to return to a full-time F1 seat should the opportunity arise.
Renault is planning to release further details on its works return to F1 in February ahead of pre-season testing, meaning that its driver line-up will need to be confirmed by then.
Regardless of Maldonado’s future, British driver Jolyon Palmer will make his F1 debut with Renault at the Australian Grand Prix in March after replacing Romain Grosjean following his move to Haas.