Maldonado to buy Lotus ride for $50M (7th Update)

UPDATE #7 Lotus admits in this article that they need Maldonado's money.

11/29/13 See related Lotus announcement.

11/29/13 (GMM) Sources close to Lotus report that the Enstone based team is ready to announce the Williams-departed Pastor Maldonado as Romain Grosjean's teammate for 2014.

Earlier, the talented Nico Hulkenberg was Lotus' top choice to replace the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen.

But that was dependent on the team's new investment millions from the 'Quantum' group arriving in time, but the conclusion of the deal has been repeatedly delayed.

So, amid reports Lotus has struggled financially in 2013 despite finishing the championship a competitive fourth, the team has signed up Maldonado and his apparently EUR 35-40 million in annual PDVSA backing.

We reported earlier on Friday that Maldonado's arrival at Lotus has only been possible due to a deal between PDVSA, the Venezuelan-owned oil giant, and Total, linked both to engine supplier Renault and Frenchman Grosjean.

Total is a French oil multinational, but a deal to allow the branding of the two seemingly conflicting sponsors on the 2014 Lotus car was reached earlier this week in Caracas, the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat reported.


Pastor Maldonado signed with Lotus

This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. According to inside sources, Maldonado has signed to drive for Lotus. We await the formal announcement.

11/24/13 Pastor Maldonado’s manager Nicolas Todt says that he expects to have an answer about the Venezuelan’s future soon.

Maldonado has been linked with Lotus for weeks, but he is also in the frame at Sauber, with some paddock sources convinced that the Swiss team is now his most likely destination. However, Todt would not confirm that it’s a straight choice between those teams.

Sources say Sauber will make a final driver choice in the next couple of days.

“We are very confident that we will make the right choice," he said. “Obviously it’s always nice to know your future before the end of the season. That’s not the case, but I’m sure a decision will be taken very soon. We have been talking to a few teams, and we’re very close to a decision.

“We take every parameter into account when making such a decision, because it concerns Pastor’s future. It’s a decision we take all together, taking into account everything that goes on."

Asked about the tricky financial situation at Lotus and Sauber he said: “Nowadays except with a top team, there is always a risk when you sign in a team, because of the economic uncertainties. We never know if the grass is greener outside our place, so there is a risk as we try to take a decision knowing the risks that there are in each team."

Maldonado has said that he doesn’t know if PDVSA will continue, but Todt played down any talk about sponsorship.

“It’s not always a matter of sponsors. Pastor has been supported by PDVSA for many, many years, because he’s the ambassador of his country, and that’s all. Anyway, whenever the announcement will be made, everything will be come very clear. I can’t tell you much more."

Todt admitted that this year’s silly season has been a difficult one.

“It’s very challenging times. Having a few drivers under management, we have been quite busy lately, but that’s why we are here…"

11/16/13 (GMM) As first reported by and now according to the paddock grapevine in Austin, Nico Hulkenberg is no longer in the running for the 2014 race seat at Lotus.

Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez has hinted to the newspaper El Nacional that Pastor Maldonado's PDVSA millions are being switched from Williams to Lotus.

"The team is changing (from Williams) and what he is working on is going to Lotus," said the PDVSA president.

Maldonado confirmed: "We are talking to teams but we are quite clear about where we want to go.

"I believe in the coming days we will have a confirmation," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

The news of PDVSA's switch to Lotus, whose 'Quantum' investment appears to have fallen over, will also be a blow for Sauber, who recently welcomed Maldonado to Hinwil.

Also assessing his ever-diminishing options is German Hulkenberg, who is now fending off a new and powerful addition to the 2014 driver market — the Telmex-backed Mexican Sergio Perez.

Force India might now be Hulkenberg's last hope of a 2014 seat, as his current team Sauber muses the possibility of an all-Mexican lineup, featuring Perez alongside Esteban Gutierrez.

"We have several options," team boss Monisha Kaltenborn is quoted by Sport1, "but a team like ours has to consider how it stands financially.

"We have never chosen drivers by nationality," she added. "We are talking about drivers who are both talented."

11/14/13 sources have learned that Maldonado will be moving to Lotus in 2014 to replace Raikkonen. Whereas Kovalainen is replacing Raikkonen for the two races remaining this year, Maldonado will bring his check to cash starved Lotus in 2014. He will not be taking it to Sauber. This rumor is 'strong' and we expect it to become 'fact.'

11/14/13 (GMM) Pastor Maldonado has leapt into contention for a Sauber seat in 2014.

Blick newspaper's veteran F1 correspondent Roger Benoit reports that the Venezuelan, whose lucrative backer PDVSA has already exited its deal at Williams, "was at Hinwil" this week.

Benoit, who said Maldonado was accompanied to Switzerland by his manager Nicolas Todt, said Sauber did not confirm or deny the news.

The EUR 40 million per year PDVSA deal would be desperately welcomed by Sauber, who have struggled financially throughout the season.

It was believed a Russian deal, including the driver Sergey Sirotkin, had saved the 20-year-old Swiss team, but many believe that money never actually arrived.

Indeed, the Swiss business newspaper Handelszeitung reported on Wednesday that the canton of Zurich has filed a new EUR 44,000 claim against Sauber for unpaid electricity bills.

A team insider confirmed to the newspaper that its financial problems "are not yet definitively solved".