LONDON, May 18, 2012 (AFP / Tim Collings) - Not content with his stunning triumph at last weekend's fire-shrouded Spanish race, Venezuelan hero Pastor Maldonado has declared his intention of staying ahead of the pack in Formula One by winning next Sunday's showpiece Monaco Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Latin American, who silenced his critics by delivering the Williams team's first win for eight years on the weekend of founder Frank Williams 70th birthday, can see no reason why he cannot do the same again.
His confidence high, after a masterful triumph built on a mature drive and good strategy, he also said this week that Formula One is changing fast - and
that the driver pays a bigger role than in recent years.
"It has become like a GP2 championship," he said at the Williams factory.
"The drivers can make the difference and the teams can still work on the strategy and the car. It's a bit boring when you see one car winning. The
season is more competitive."
Maldonado added that despite criticism by Michael Schumacher and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz about the unforgiving Pirelli tyres, it was
satisfying to win races under the current regulations.
He added: "The tyre degradation is quite big and it is true that you need to manage them, but that is part of it and it's the same for everybody. There
are no easy races. We need to adapt to the tyres, to the rules, to the car."
Looking ahead to next weekend's famous contest on the narrow streets of the Mediterranean principality, he said: "All the teams and the championship are so close, but we are getting better and better every time.
"We don't have the quickest car, maybe, but we are doing our best. Monaco? Why not? F1 is changing all the time. It's going to be difficult but we will
He said that the rapidly-improving and revamped Williams team was gaining in self-belief with each race and their understanding of tyre management
played a critical part in his Spanish Grand Prix win.
"The Pirellis are working quite well on our car at the moment," he told reporters. "We have degradation, but it's the same for everybody. We've been working on the tyres. We built the car around the tyres and developed it around them.
"We understand very well how to do it, especially on the driving side, and the engineers managing the set-up of the car. I am sure we can do it again and
we can win again."
Maldonado's maiden victory, from his maiden pole position, in Spain turned him into a national hero and set him on course to become one of the biggest
sport stories of the year and fully justified Williams decision to sign him when they released veteran Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
Maldonado was offered the drive with Williams partly due to a huge sponsorship deal with Venezuela's state oil company, but team principal Sir
Frank Williams, who was one of the first men rescued from the fuel blaze that erupted in the back of their garage during last Sunday's post-race celebrations, this week made clear that it was the Venezuelan's great talent that was more important.
Maldonado, showing dignity and level-headedness in his hour of glory, repaid many of the compliments he received from his team by signalling that he has no desire to leave.
"I think I will stay in the team for a long time," he said. "We need to be winning, we need a mission, we need to build a championship and after I will
see for my future."
He added: "Everyone here is very happy to see me. We did a small conference this morning, we were all together, talking with the people of the factory and
I am happy to see their happy faces.
"For sure it is a great moment to be back at the factory because we have been working so hard to find this result."
Williams triumph came unexpectedly and after the team endured, in 2011, their worst-ever season in Formula One, after which the design and engineering staff were shaken up in a revamp aimed at lifting them out of the doldrums.
"We took a great step forward because we changed a lot of things here in the factory, and part of that approach when we get to the track is completely
different," explained Maldonado.