What a Difference a Weekend Makes
As Bahrain demonstrated, Formula One might like to think it is beyond the touch of politics but politics likes to think otherwise. No where has this been more apparent in recent times than in Venezuela. Backed by President Hugo Chavez’s socialist government, through the state-owned oil company PDVSA, Williams and Pastor Maldonado were just another pawn in Venezuelan politics. Most significantly, a Venezuelan congress investigation into the sponsorship deal was ongoing, with mutterings of misappropriation of public funds.
And then Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix.
Now the expense appears justified and everyone in Venezuela wants a piece of Formula One’s newest race winner. He even managed to go and top that achievement by carrying his young cousin to safety as the Williams garage became engulfed in flames – truly the national hero. Chavez will hold him up as a symbol of his socialism. His political rival, Henrique Capriles was also quick to congratulate him of course. Meanwhile, the congressional investigation is now likely to be quietly forgotten, Williams’ funding secured.
Williams’ share price has been slowly recovering since it haemorrhaged in the months after they were floated. It’s now at its highest level since then, bucking the trends of the rest of the market reacting to the Greek crisis yesterday. Success breeds confidence but Venezuela’s sponsorship is a key part of that investor faith.
Mercedes victory in China was a milestone but for Williams, their first victory since 2004 really could be the start of a long-promised resurgence.
Credit: Williams F1/Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic