LONDON (Reuters) - Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen is set to replace Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado at the Renault Formula One team, Sky Sports television and specialist websites reported on Thursday.
A spokesman for the British-based team, who competed as Lotus last season, would not comment on speculation when contacted by Reuters.
Renault are due to present their driver lineup and management structure at an event in Paris next Wednesday.
Maldonado’s future has been uncertain since Renault announced their return to Formula One as constructors and took over the financially-troubled team last month.
Quick, and a race winner with Williams in Spain in 2012, Maldonado also has an accident-prone reputation that has made him a regular visitor to the stewards as well as the butt of jokes on social media.
Previously backed by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, to the tune of some 20 million pounds ($28.75 million) a year according to some media reports, there has been speculation about the driver’s ongoing funding.
The BBC, citing unnamed sources, reported earlier this month that payments from PDVSA were several weeks overdue. The company has not commented.
Autosport.com, also referring to unnamed sources, reported on Thursday that Magnussen was poised to sign a deal in the next few days.
It added, however, that there was a “very small window of opportunity” for PDVSA to return to the negotiating table and sign a new deal.
Venezuelans are reeling from annual inflation of almost 150 percent according to latest figures, a deep economic recession and shortages of basic goods, which have been aggravated by the tumble in oil prices.
The country’s president Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday that Venezuela’s revenues slid 70 percent due to the oil price slump while its economy shrank five percent in 2015.
Magnussen, 23, was released by McLaren last October after an impressive 2014 debut that included a podium finish in his first race in Australia. He was seen visiting the Lotus factory recently.
If confirmed, he would partner British rookie Jolyon Palmer at the team.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis