Q and A with F1’s newest rookie

Wednesday brought with it the much-awaited confirmation that Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado will be making his Formula 1 debut with Williams next season, pairing up with Rubens Barrichello as replacement for GP2 Champion predecessor Nico Hülkenberg. The 25-year-old Maracay driver shares his feelings.

What started your career in motorsport?

Having competed themselves, my father and my uncle are very passionate about motorsport, so I inherited it from them. In my city of Maracay, there is a go-kart circuit about five minutes from my home.

When I was about three or four years old I said I wanted to race but I was too young, then when I reached the age of seven my father gave me a kart and we started from there – from that moment until now we have never stopped.

After karting in Venezuela, I came to Europe in 1998 to compete in international kart races, which was great for me to get experience racing outside my country. After consistently being at the top, I decided to move to Italian Formula Renault – I won the championship in my second year. We made the jump to GP2 in 2007 but I only did half a season, as I had an injury. We came back in 2008 and finished fifth in the championship, just six points adrift of the leader in a very close championship.

You were crowned GP2 Champion this year. What does that feel like?

It was an incredible season. We were competitive from the beginning and went on to win six races. The team worked well together to achieve victory and by the middle of the season I already had a good gap and took the title at Monza.

Do you think you are ready for F1?

GP2 is a very good championship, it really prepares drivers well for F1. I have worked very hard to get to this position and, yes, I definitely feel ready.

How does it feel knowing you will be driving for Williams next year?

Williams do an amazing job. It’s unbelievable to be here and to be part of the team. It’s a dream.

What do you make of your new team-mate, Rubens Barrichello?

For sure Rubens is a pleasure to have as a team-mate, as he is a very experienced driver. I can learn so much from him. It will be fun as he is South American too! I think it’s going to be a very interesting team.

How will you prepare for your first F1 season over the winter?

I will keep pushing in my training and working in the simulator. We don't have a long time, just one or two months before the first test, and I’m going to be fit and ready.

You had a day in the FW32 at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver test. How did that go?

It was amazing. It was a big moment for me because only days before I had been driving a GP2 car and there are some big differences. I improved lap after lap and completed the program, so it was a very good experience for me.

What are the differences between a GP2 car and an F1 car?

There are three big differences. The first is the difference in engine power; the F1 car has amazing power and a higher top speed. Secondly, the braking point; the brakes are a lot harder in F1. Finally there is much more downforce and general grip.

You will be only the fourth Venezuelan to have ever driven a Formula 1 car. What does that mean to you?

It has been nearly 30 years since Venezuela has had a driver in Formula 1, so the country has been pushing young drivers in the hope of having someone represent them. I am happy to now be that driver.

To summarize, what will be your objectives for the 2011 season?

I just want to do my best, to be as close to the top as I can and to get the maximum out of the car. The team are working very hard and I need to push to be at the top as soon as possible. I am a rookie but that isn’t going to be a problem; I need to keep focused and to do my job.

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