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Maldonado to test for Williams at Abu Dhabi
Williams will run Pastor Maldonado at the end-of-season young drivers' test in Abu Dhabi.
GP2 champion Maldonado has recently been linked to the team as a possible replacement for Nico Hulkenberg next season. The Venezuelan has substantial backing from his country's state-owned oil company, rumoured to be worth $15 million, but finished 64 points behind Hulkenberg when the pair were GP2 team-mates in 2009.
When asked about the rumours over the Korean Grand Prix weekend, Williams co-owner Patrick Head told reporters on Sunday that the question should be directed to team chairman Adam Parr. But when pressed about the role funding would play in the decision, he acknowledged: "Those are things which we will weigh up. It's terrible to hide behind a board but these things will be debated and are being debated in the Williams board."
Maldonado will share the two-day Abu Dhabi test with Formula 2 champion Dean Stoneman, who will take part as part of his prize for winning his title earlier this year. Frank Williams welcomed both drivers to the team and confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will remain as the team's test driver in 2011.
"We are delighted to have the two reigning champions of the two strongest feeder series for Formula One in the FW32 for these two test days," he said. "Valtteri fought hard for his third place in this year's Formula 3 Euroseries, taking two wins and six podiums in a very competitive year. He also set a record with his second consecutive victory in the Formula 3 Masters. He has worked hard both on and off the track and learnt a great deal. We continue to see talent, discipline and dedication and are happy to help foster that further in 2011."
Williams has not set a deadline for its race driver announcement although it is widely understood that Rubens Barrichello's position is safe. Hulkenberg's manager Willi Weber insists his driver is still in the running to stay as well.
"Nico is not 'out' already, as has been speculated," he told the German news agency DPA. "The talks with Williams are continuing, but there are obviously alternatives. Williams is the first choice and we would love to stay, but it is extremely important that Nico has a race cockpit in Formula One for 2011."
Weber acknowledged that Williams may have to put financial factors above others when making its decision.
"(Chairman) Adam Parr has a great responsibility to hundreds of employees and as the highest priority he must consider the welfare of the team," he said.