Williams have confirmed that Pastor Maldonado will remain with the team next season. It will be the Venezuelan’s second year racing in F1, following a tough rookie campaign in which he secured one world championship point.
Williams also announced the promotion of reigning GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas to the role of reserve driver. Bottas is expected to participate in a Friday practice session at the majority of 2012 Grands Prix.
“I am delighted to be able to continue with Williams into my second season and I will give my very best to help the team as we push to return to the front of the grid,” said Maldonado. “This has been a tough season for the whole team but it has given me personally the opportunity to learn and develop. I am convinced that the steps we have taken to improve our competitiveness will bear fruit in 2012 and beyond. I am thrilled to be part of that and also to represent the people of Venezuela in Formula One.”
Team principal Frank Williams commented: “Pastor has proven this year that he is not only quick but also that he is able to maintain a consistent and strong race pace,” said team principal Frank Williams. “He has been responsible for all of our forays into Q3 in 2011 and his race at Monaco was outstanding. Pastor has also settled into the team at Williams very well, contributing strongly in the factory and with our partners. He will play a critical role in 2012 as we rebuild the team and move forward.”
Of his promotion, Finland’s Bottas said, “I would like to thank Frank Williams and the whole team for the investment that everyone at Williams has made to help me over the past two years. The opportunity now to continue this unique development with the position of reserve driver will enable me to gain essential experience as part of the race team in 2012. In this position, I will do my utmost to help the team to set up for a great race weekend and also look forward to playing a role off the track with the team at the factory and with our partners.”
After winning four prestigious karting titles between 2004 and 2006, Bottas moved to single-seater racing in 2007. In Formula Renault he won both the Eurocup and NEC championships and took 22 wins from 48 starts. In Formula Three Bottas was the highest placed rookie, finishing third in the championship before going on to take three wins in his second season. He also won both years’ F3 Masters races, the first driver to win this race in successive years. In GP3 this year, Bottas won the title after taking four wins in the last seven races. He then joined Williams for two days at the recent Abu Dhabi young driver test where he demonstrated mature car control and consistently quick lap times while providing considered and sound technical feedback.
“We have a very specific approach to young driver development, working with one highly talented individual over a period of years,” said Williams. “Valtteri has proved a very capable and rounded young man of fierce determination. As the team’s reserve driver, we anticipate that Valtteri will participate in a Friday practice session at 15 Grands Prix next year, most likely with a more experienced driver taking over for the remainder of the race weekend.”
Williams will announce the identity of that driver in due course, leaving the future of Maldonado’s 2011 team mate, Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello, uncertain.