March 8th (GMM).- Pastor Maldonado can probably survive in formula one even without Hugo Chavez.
That is the view of former F1 driver turned respected British television commentator Martin Brundle, whilst musing the consequences of the death of the late Venezuelan president.
Until Chavez's death early this week, Maldonado enjoyed the personal backing of the controversial leader, with his Williams seat secured by the multi-million dollar sponsorship of the state-controlled oil company PDVSA.
But now, with Venezuelan elections looming, it is possible Chavez's ruling socialist party will lose power altogether.
"There are few 27-year-olds whose livelihood is determined not only by the whim of a kindly oligarch, but by the political machinations of an entire country," noted Telegraph correspondent Oliver Brown.
Brundle, however, thinks the situation is slightly less dramatic for Maldonado.
"He became a national hero for winning the Spanish GP last year and I think that has been good for Venezuela and good for his sponsors, so why would they want to run away?" he told Sky.
Damon Hill partly agrees, but pointed out that "in this day and age, a driver needs more than just ability".
In fact, the 1996 world champion is now looking for just that kind of support for his son Josh, who this year has stepped up to European F3, one of the last hurdles before F1.
"You need a South American country; we're looking for one," Hill joked to Reuters.
"Chile, Argentina, any one will do."
Besides, Maldonado's immediate future won't change. First, in order to change or stop his sponsoring, a new government would have to be in place, and even though Chavez is not around anymore, still looks like a real challenge for that to happen.
Even if a new government rules in the next months, remove the sponsorship would be an unpopular move that might proof to be unnecessary, unless of course, Maldonado is doing very bad, which looks unprovable.