Williams expect to retain both F1 drivers
Monday 11 July 2011
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello can expect to stay at Williams next season, according to the Formula One team's chairman Adam Parr.
"Yes. I think that's vastly the most likely outcome," he told reporters at the British Grand Prix when asked whether the two South Americans would be retained.
Barrichello will be 40 and in his 20th season next year while Maldonado is in his first year in the sport after winning the GP2 title.
The Venezuelan brings with him important sponsorship from his country's state oil company PDVSA but Parr said he had shown his talent.
"I always believed, and people derided us or me for saying it, but I think he's a very, very talented driver," the Briton said.
"His record in GP2 certainly earned him a place in Formula One and you could see the speed. What I think he's begun to show is a degree of consistency and maturity that perhaps people didn't expect as well."
Maldonado has yet to score a point in 10 races, while Barrichello has bagged only four in the team's worst ever start to a season, but there have been promising glimpses.
The Venezuelan was heading for a solid points finish in Monaco when he was shunted out by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and he qualified in seventh place for Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
In the past six months, former champions Williams have made major personnel changes, floated the company and agreed partnerships with Renault for F1 engines and Jaguar on a sportscar project.
Parr, whose team have lost some major backers including troubled British bank RBS, hoped that would now help the team attract new sponsors and keep existing ones.
"Our on-track performance was just so obviously inadequate that to be talking with sponsors just wouldn't have worked (earlier in the year)," he said.
"So I said to the marketing guys 'Just back off. Keep things ticking over for the moment because we need to put in place a vision for the future which is very different to the vision of the present'."
Parr said that had now been done: "We have some fantastic conversations going on and I'm very optimistic we will bring in some stunning new partnerships for next year," he said.
The Williams chairman is a novice compared to some in the paddock, and particularly 80-year-old Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone with whom he has not always seen eye to eye.
"Whenever we have a chat it's very friendly and he gently puts me back in my box, reminds me how little I understand and I accept that," he said. "But it's not going to stop me asking the question."
Parr praised Ecclestone for everything he had done but still felt there were areas that were not being exploited to the full.
He cited the example of Barrichello, who has more than one million followers on Twitter.
"Social media and the internet and even pay TV, how it's grown up in the last decade, must change the landscape. Not just how you communicate with people and how you distribute with people but also economically what's possible," he said.
"For Renault, Brazil is a key market. So when Rubens is... tweeting 'We're back with Renault, this is fantastic news'. Bang. A million people, who've opted to follow him, get an endorsement of Renault which is not commercially driven, it's what he generally feels about their company and brand.
"How do you quantify what that is worth? how many TV adverts of a (Renault) Clio is that worth?"
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