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Maldonado's money talks

ESPNF1 Staff
December 1, 2010
Pastor Maldonado has only had the benefit of one test session with his new Williams team © Getty Images

For a privateer team hit hard by the loss of major sponsors at the end of the 2010 season, the confirmation of Pastor Maldonado as Rubens Barrichello's team-mate at Williams for the 2011 season came as little surprise.

One GP2 champion has replaced another but for Nico Hulkenberg, the pill will be a particularly bitter one to swallow. The young German enjoyed a competitive rookie season culminating in some impressive drives, most notably in securing the team its first pole position for five barren years in Brazil.

Williams' loss of Hulkenberg will surely be another team's gain but with Maldonado bringing heavy sponsorship from Venezuela's state-owned petroleum company, the equation was simple. Hulkenberg out, Maldonado in. Granted, Maldonado produced an impressive season in GP2, winning six times. But it is unlikely he will be able to replicate his GP2 form on the biggest stage of all and match Hulkenberg's performances of 2010.

The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Hulkenberg himself took to Formula One from the feeder series like ducks to water but they all enjoyed the benefit of substantial testing beforehand. Hulkenberg clocked up almost 9000kms of tests and Hamilton around 22,000kms before arriving in F1. Maldonado, over two years Hulkenberg's senior, has just two days of F1 testing and only one behind the wheel of the Williams.

Without such help, the transition can be a daunting one as new Sauber recruit Sergio Perez admitted during the season-ending Abu Dhabi test.

"It takes you quite a lot to reach the limit of the car," said Perez. "You go out and you think 'ah, I'm going quick' - and you are four or five seconds off. Especially because I drove this track in the GP2 car and the limits are pretty different so it takes a bit of time to be up to speed."

Maldonado does have the benefit of the wise old head of Rubens Barrichello to guide him and offer advice in his debut season and that will be a big help. But don't expect Maldonado to be as close to Barrichello as the impressive Hulkenberg in a sport where money often rules over talent.