Pastor Maldonado has dismissed criticism of the way his Formula One career is being funded even though his country is racked by poverty.
Maldonado’s victory in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix was primarily seen as a force for good in his homeland as he became the first from Venezuela to win in Formula One.
The 26-year-old was even congratulated personally by president Hugo Chavez after a race that was marred by a blaze that swept through the team’s garage at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
With campaigning ongoing as Venezuela builds towards its election later this year, there remains opposition to the fact Maldonado’s F1 dreams are supported by state-owned oil company PDVSA to the tune of £27million per year.
The belief is such considerable finances would be better served in assisting Venezuela’s infrastructure, such as building better roads and schools, rather than supporting one driver in a rich man’s sport.
Responding to the gibes, Maldonado said: “I’m very lucky to have my country behind me pushing me so hard to see me in Formula One.
“PDVSA have supported me all my career, and I’m so lucky to have them because that has helped develop the car, our performance.
“So I’m not worried because the whole of the country is happy because of the result, especially because it has come quite soon.
“From now most of the people are looking forward to Formula One, which is popular in Venezuela.
“The comments are also something political. We are in the middle of elections and people are free to say what they want.
“But the government is pushing hard, not only in Formula One and motor sports, but a lot of other sports at the moment, and we are getting some very important results.
“So I’m not thinking about these comments. I’m just focused on doing my best.”
Maldonado was at the factory in Grove today for the first time since his triumph – the team’s first for seven and a half years – and the fire that destroyed a considerable amount of equipment.
Photographs emerged following the incident of Maldonado carrying cousin Manuel to safety, the 12-year-old wearing a protective boot on his right foot due to an injury and clutching his uncle’s winner’s trophy.
“It was a difficult moment after the race,” said Maldonado.
“We were altogether inside the garage, and I was so scared for all of us, but we were so lucky because there was no big damage, and our people were okay.
“But even after that we were so happy because of the win, nearly eight years since Williams had been on the top of the podium, so it was a great moment and a great day.
“And today it was great to see all the people so happy. The win is great motivation for all of them.
“I’ve told them to keep pushing like they have because I’m getting better and better, and I can feel that in the car.”