Maldonado puts honeymoon on hold

JEREZ, Spain Thu Feb 7, 2013 1:11pm GMT

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JEREZ, Spain (Reuters) - The honeymoon is on hold for Pastor Maldonado as the Williams driver prepares for his third season in Formula One with a determination to win more races and steer well clear of the stewards.

"One day. Eventually," grinned the Venezuelan, who married fiancée Gabriela in the close season, after his first test of the campaign at the Jerez circuit.

Maldonado has had no time for the usual post-nuptial holiday. He is fully focused on the year ahead and trying to establish a new reputation as a driver who is quick, confident and consistent rather than quick with controversies and crashes.

"I am more confident. Confident with the team and the car as well," the 27-year-old told Reuters over a cup of coffee in the team hospitality when asked how he felt about the year ahead.

"In my first year we were suffering a lot with the car, the next year was a question mark and this year must be progress, a step up.

"I will try to do my best, to win not only one (race)," he added. "I think and I hope the level will be more or less the same as last year because the rules haven't changed a lot. So everything will be very tight and I enjoy that because the driver can sometimes make the difference."

Former champions Williams, whose last title came in 1997, finished eighth overall last season with Maldonado scoring 45 of their 76 points after winning in Spain for the team's first victory in nearly eight years.

There would have been more points had the Venezuelan not racked up so many trips to the stewards that it sometimes seemed as if they had his number on speed dial.

Maldonado even managed to collect three punishments at the Belgian Grand Prix weekend at Spa that left him with a 10-place grid penalty for the following race in Italy.

He made it a priority over the closing races of last year to stay out of trouble and it remains right up there on his list for 2013, even if he still chafes at the sanctions meted out.

"I made some mistakes last year but at the same time I was being killed by the stewards. It was a combination, 50-50, not all down to me and everybody knows that," said Maldonado.

"I am more experienced now. I will try to be away from the troubles," he added.

NEW CAR

Williams are the only team yet to unveil their new car, with the launch scheduled for the season's second test this month at the Barcelona circuit where Maldonado joined the ranks of Formula One race winners.

It is not his favourite track but, after testing last year's car this week with new aerodynamic parts, he is excited to get his hands on the 2013 challenger that he and Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas will be racing.

The testing at Jerez was more about doing laps, getting used to the new Pirelli tyres and having a comparison with last season's data.

Bottas is Maldonado's third different team mate in three years but the 23-year-old rookie has been part of the Williams set-up for two years now and took part in Friday practice at most grand prix weekends last season.

Maldonado said Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian veteran who drove alongside him at Williams in 2011 before Bruno Senna last year, was his toughest and quickest team mate so far and one he had learnt a lot from.

He was sure Bottas would prove strong and competitive as well.

"He's a good guy and I know him very well," said Maldonado. "I am more experienced than him and we need to try to work together very hard, to develop the car as soon as we can. We have a good relationship between us so I'm looking forward to it.

"He's been very involved in the development, been full time in the simulator, so he's not a complete rookie. I think he will enjoy this season and be competitive."

The season starts in Australia on March 17.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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