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The curious case of Pastor Maldonado's F1 renewal in the night

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The curious case of Pastor Maldonado's F1 renewal in the night
Sep 20, 2015, 9:08 PM

Most F1 driver announcements happen at tactically suitable times; Lewis Hamilton's announcement came shortly before the Monaco GP drivers' press co...

Most F1 driver announcements happen at tactically suitable times; Lewis Hamilton's announcement came shortly before the Monaco GP drivers' press conference, for example.

But the confirmation that Pastor Maldonado will be staying with the Enstone-based F1 team, currently known as Lotus, arrived in the in-box several hours after most people had left the Singapore GP circuit, thereby avoiding the need to answer any questions about it until Thursday, when F1 reconvenes in Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix!

Maldonado has been with the team since 2013, bringing the substantial PDVSA Venezuelan oil sponsorship budget with him and it's fair to say that a lot has been hinging on this deal and the payment of funds from PDVSA to Lotus. The F1 driver market has also been waiting for this to go through, as the remaining drivers and seats are all downstream of this deal.

Lotus is in the final stages of being sold to Renault. The French car manufacturer is coming back to F1 as a team owner, as has been rumoured for some time. Last week it looked like the deal might be off as the manufacturer could not agree terms with F1's commercial rights holders over its share of the bonus fund for the so-called CCB teams, that have made a significant contribution to the sport over many years and/or won the world championship since 2000.

The deadlock was broken in the last few days and so the cogs are beginning to turn on the next steps. Lotus has been waiting for a payment from PDVSA, the court case in London on Friday was adjourned because this deal was in the offing. Gerard Lopez, the team boss, was in Singapore on a rare visit to the track and clearly the deal was concluded this weekend.

Maldonado

Maldonado is staying put at Lotus, a team that is going to transition into Renault gradually over the next season.

“It’s great that the team can confirm my position as race driver for 2016," said Maldonado. "Obviously, there has been a lot of speculation about the future and whilst I have remained focused on my job on track it is also positive to know that my future is confirmed.

"This season has presented us with some challenges but the quality of the squad at Enstone is clear to see. I really feel part of the family at Enstone and I’m looking forward to building on the work done this year to deliver better results in 2016.”

So now the question arises of what Romain Grosjean will do next, now that the deadlock is broken.

The French driver said on Thursday that he has decided what he is doing for next year and most informed paddock sources suggest that this is a move to the new Haas F1 team. He too has been waiting for this Maldonado news; now it's here will that change the plan?

If Grosjean goes, then Jean Eric Vergne is a contender for the Renault seat, as he has great support from Renault's Alain Prost, while Sergio Perez has also held off signing his new deal with Force India to assess the situation. Perhaps this latest news has made it more likely he will stay put.

Performance-wise, it is hard to judge whether the new Renault team or the Mercedes-powered Force India team will be better placed in 2016. Much depends on how much Renault has invested in its 2016 engine development programme as all the uncertainty has swirled around its continued involvement in F1, with the divorce from Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Renault has not produced any development engines this season and its allocation of 'tokens' remains untouched.

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Series Formula 1
Teams Renault F1 Team