Pastor Maldonado has described his forced departure from Renault as “a bolt from the blue”, saying the situation deteriorated within a few hours.
The Venezuelan initially had a contract for 2016, having signed an extension with Lotus last year. But when sponsorship money from state-owned oil company PDVSA dried up in the wake of economic turmoil in Maldonado’s home country, Renault moved swiftly to replace the 30-year-old with Kevin Magnussen.
“The situation changed radically within a few hours and I found myself without a sponsor, and everything else came from that,” he told Italian publication Autosprint. “I am not angry not negative but I feel anything but happy. It felt like a bolt from the blue.”
Pressed to give further explanation on what went wrong with PDVSA, which was believed to fork around $50m [£34.5m] per year to back Maldonado, the ex-Williams racer replied:
“I don’t want to comment on it. These are sensitive issues that I have yet to clarify. At the moment, I’m only thinking of a way to find an alternative and keep racing.
“PDVSA has always done a stellar job and also supported other drivers – like [IndyCar racer] EJ Viso and [GP3 driver] Samin Gomez – and other sports and I am sure they will carry on doing it.”
Maldonado’s career in the top flight spanned five seasons and 95 race starts with the highlight being his 2012 Spanish Grand Prix victory where he withstood intense pressure from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to give Williams its first win in nearly eight years.
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” the former GP2 Series champion reminisced.
“It was one of the biggest surprises in F1 history, but not to me because I deserved that joy. The party that followed at Williams was great and truly unforgettable. Anyone who thinks the team is cold is wrong.”
Although there is still one race seat available at Manor this year, Maldonado's manager Nicolas Todt has already said they are targeting an F1 return in 2017.