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Maldonado earns F1 drive at Williams

Pastor Maldonado has progressed to motorsport's elite class after dominating the GP2 series this year.
Pastor Maldonado has progressed to motorsport's elite class after dominating the GP2 series this year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pastor Maldonado will be the first Venezuelan to drive in F1 since the 1980s
  • Williams sign the 25-year-old to replace departed rookie Nico Hulkenberg
  • He will be the British team's second driver alongside Brazil's Rubens Barrichello
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(CNN) -- British Formula One team Williams will have an all-South American line-up next year, with Pastor Maldonado signing up to drive alongside Rubens Barrichello.

Maldonado will be the first Venezuelan since Johnny Cecotto in 1984 to drive an F1 car when he lines up alongside Brazilian veteran Barrichello at the Bahrain Grand prix in March.

The 25-year-old takes the seat of young German Nico Hulkenberg, who left after being unable to agree a new contract following his successful rookie year.

Maldonado won the GP2 Series title this year, becoming the first driver to win six successive races, and tested for Williams in Abu Dhabi.

"I will be doing my best over the winter to prepare myself, and I know the team will be working hard to ensure a successful season," he told the Williams website on Thursday.

"2011 will be the first time in nearly 30 years that a Venezuelan has driven a Formula One car, so I will be looking to get some good results in return for the support my country has given me to help get me to this position today."

A seven-time national kart champion, he won at Monaco in his debut GP2 season in 2007.

"Since then, he has regularly reminded us of his unquestionable talent with some skilful wins, particularly during this year's GP2 championship," team principal Frank Williams said.

"Of course, we already know Pastor from the time he spent with the team at the Abu Dhabi test, but we are very much looking forward to developing his talent over the winter and a fruitful season with him next year."