ABU DHABI — Sources tell National Speed Sport News that Williams has signed a two-year contract with 2010 GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado, but he might not necessarily drive for the team. Instead, he might be farmed out to HRT for a season.
Bruno Senna, Christian Klien, Sakon Yamamoto and Karun Chandhok have all driven for HRT this year, but it’s rumored that none of them will be invited back for 2011.
Four major sponsors will not renew their contracts with Williams next year, but team principal Adam Parr remains bullish about the team’s financial future.
“We have replaced all the sponsorship we have lost and we are in great shape for next year,” he said. “I actually feel more positive about the future now than I have for a long time, even though we actually turned a profit every year for the last three years and we will this year and next year.
“We haven’t made a decision about our driver line-up next year and that is partly because we need to see the whole season in its context.”
– Missed connections, canceled flights and long waits in airports stories could be heard throughout the paddock as members of the F-1 fraternity told tales of travail of their trips between Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Staging races which are nearly half a world apart on consecutive weekends was not a bright idea.
– Robert Kubica was fuming after he qualified 11th, marking the first time this season he started outside the top 10. He had complained all weekend that something didn’t feel right with the rear suspension on the Renault, but the crew was unable to pinpoint anything.
– The drivers, team principals and Bernie Ecclestone posed for a photograph on Friday night. Missing, however, were Timo Glock, Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher who failed to show up. “Has he retired again?” Bernie raged about Schumacher. The latter said no one had told him about the shoot. All the drivers showed up for the traditional season-end photo on Sunday.
– HRT is completing a deal with Toyota which will result in HRT using the monocoque and front suspension of the 2010 Toyota F-1 car that never raced. It features Cosworth engines, and Williams gearboxes and hydraulics. The rear suspension and bodywork are being designed by Geoff Willis. After a struggling start to its first season in F-1, HRT’s prospects are looking up considerably for 2011.
– Ferrari has named Jules Bianchi as its test driver for the 2011 season. Bianchi, who continues to be part of the Ferrari Driver Academy Programme, made his debut in his new position this week during the two-day young driver test in Abu Dhabi. With all the testing restrictions during the off-season, it is doubtful that Ferrari’s other testers — Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella — will get any seat time.
– Lotus Racing hung on to 10th place in the constructors’ championship. By being one of the top 10 teams, Lotus qualifies for millions of dollars in travel and TV money in 2011.
– Lotus Racing will trade its historic British Racing green-and-yellow paint scheme for the classic black-and-gold livery next year. Lotus used the latter John Player Special colors from 1972 to 1979 and from 1981 to 1986. The team will ask fans to design the livery via a competition run on its website. Paddock insiders see this livery change as just another round in the battle between Lotus Racing and Group Lotus to own the Team Lotus name.
– The teams stayed on in Abu Dhabi this week for their first chance to try out the new Pirelli F-1 tires.
– Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia Motors has bought a significant stake in the Virgin F-1 team. While no figures were released, NSSN understands that Marussia acquired 20 percent of the shares — five percent from Richard Branson and 15 percent from Nick Wirth. “We had security anyway,” said Branson who now owns only five percent of the team, “but it allows us to be a bit more ambitious in our planning.”