Oct 2, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT
Pastor Maldonado says he feels a great responsibility in representing Venezuela in Formula One.
Maldonado became Venzuela’s first F1 driver in 27 years when he entered the sport in 2011. He brings significant backing to Williams courtesy of Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas manufacturer PDVSA.
“It’s a huge responsibility that I have,” Maldonado told CNN. “I have a complete country pushing in my back so every day we do not do very well, I have some pressure.”
Maldonado scored his first and, so far, only win at the Spanish Grand Prix last year. He said that was a major boost for his profile back home.
“You know, F1 after my victory last year became a very popular sport,” he said. “We have two live TV channels so it’s getting bigger and bigger – which is why I have even more responsibility.”
Questions were raised over the future of Maldonado’s sponsorship arrangement following the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez earlier this year.
Maldonado said Chavez was “very close to the drivers” backed by his country, including IndyCar racer EJ Viso and GP2 racer Rodolfo Gonzalez, who has also driven for Marussia in practice sessions this year.
Maldonado has set up his own foundation to promote Venezuelan racing talent: “We want to find a new driver from the very poor slums of Venezuela and give him the opportunity to become a race driver in the future in F1,” he explained.
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