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Renault working on Maldonado's F1 future with Venezuelan backers

Renault officials are currently in Venezuela in a bid to conclude sponsorship negotiations with PDVSA that would confirm Pastor Maldonado's drive for the forthcoming Formula 1 season, Autosport understands

It was announced on the Sunday of last year's Singapore Grand Prix that Maldonado would continue with Lotus for a third year in 2016.

At the time Lotus was in talks with Renault regarding the French manufacturer acquiring a majority stake in the Enstone-based squad, with Renault apparently happy for Maldonado to retain his seat.

But as time progressed, and with the deal to takeover Lotus drawing towards a conclusion, Renault then took stock of the sponsors it wanted to be associated with.

At the time there was still debate as to which sponsors to bring on board, that included Venezuela's state-owned oil and gas giant PDVSA that has supported Maldonado's motorsport career for many years.

Renault felt with significant livery changes to be made to the car - scheduled to be unveiled in early February - affecting the available space on it, that would in turn change the existing contract.

The situation surrounding Maldonado's seat has been further complicated by the fact a parliamentary election was held in Venezuela in early December, which president Nicolas Maduro lost.

With Maduro's grip on power threatened, political chaos is unfolding in Maldonado's homeland, allied to which is economic instability on the back of the plunging price of oil.

These are all reasons why, after Renault announced the signing of principal contracts for its takeover of Lotus on December 3, CEO Carlos Ghosn was vague on confirming the driver line-up.

Renault has since decided to continue with Maldonado, and obviously PDVSA, with discussions currently ongoing to finalise a new deal.

Despite the fact Maldonado has a valid driver contract in place, Renault has been forced to look at a plan B should PDVSA opt not to continue.

It is believed former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen, released by the team at the end of last season, is on Renault's shortlist.

Despite the situation regarding Maldonado, Jolyon Palmer's seat - and therefore debut F1 campaign this year - is in no way affected.

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