March 14 (Reuters) - The Lotus Formula One team appointed Federico Gastaldi as deputy principal with immediate effect at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday.
The Argentine has been with the team since 2010 and was also involved with predecessors Benetton, in the role of director of business development.
“Federico was instrumental in nurturing our relationship with PDVSA and he continues to be a vital link for us with Venezuela,” said co-chairman and principal Gerard Lopez in a statement.
PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, have joined Lotus as a partner this season with the arrival from Williams of Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado.
Lopez, the chairman of Luxembourg-based Genii Capital who control the former championship-winning Renault team, took over as principal in January following the departure of Frenchman Eric Boullier.
Boullier is now Racing Director at McLaren, who have dispensed with the formal role of principal following the ousting of Martin Whitmarsh.
“We need to ensure rapid progress with our car for this season. It’s no secret that pre-season preparations have not been as smooth as we’d like but we have confidence that we can turn this situation around very quickly,” said Gastaldi.
“We know it is a big challenge, especially because there is so much technology that is new to everyone, but we know the team can deliver good cars and we will do this in 2014 with Renault.”
Lotus finished fourth overall last year despite financial problems but have been on the back foot in 2014. They missed the first pre-season test in Spain because their car was not ready and suffered problems in the other two tests in Bahrain.
Maldonado failed to complete a timed lap in Friday practice in Melbourne. (Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Patrick Johnston)