In light of the death of Hugo Chavez it is likely that the investment that Venezuela has made in numerous sports will immediately be brought under the spotlight of whoever replaces him as the leader of the oil-rich South American nation.
With Chavez now out of power it will be interesting to see the approach that the new government takes towards these sponsorships. Will their policies continue to support the use of funds from state owned companies such as PDVSA and Citgo to fund the countries leading drivers and motocross riders?
Opposition to Chavez has continuously spoken out about the spending made by Venezuela in Formula 1, Indy Cars, GP2, World Touring Cars and sports car racing so it is almost certain that a lot of that funding will dry up in the immediate future. The highest profile sponsorship by the Venezuelan government has been in F1 with Pastor Maldonado.
PDVSA, the state run oil company, provides a hefty chunk of Williams’ budget and the implications of a change of government could be significant for Formula 1. By all accounts the team has a long term binding agreement with PDVSA to be a lead sponsor for the Grove based outfit for at least the next two seasons with Maldonado driving.
As a result there is some level of security for Williams in the immediate future but given the recent controversies in Argentina over nationalising Repsol oil fields show that a change of government can lead to drastic changes.
Williams has been through the mill in recent years but 2012 saw the team back in the winners circle and Maldonado a regular top ten qualifier. The team’s financial and technical footing has improved considerably since the decisions made by Sir Frank Williams to radically reshuffle and restructure the team however the death of Chavez is sure to cause some furrowed brows at Williams in the coming weeks until a new government is elected next month.
It is likely that the new government will see the benefits that Maldonado, a hero to millions in the country, brings and that he will continue to be supported but until the election occurs it is impossible to know for certain.