EXCLUSIVE - Given political uncertainty in Venezuela from where Maldonado brought lucrative sponsorship, his place could be under threat
Kevin Magnussen, the Danish former McLaren driver sacked on his birthday, is in talks with the new-look Renault team over a seat, possibly even replacing Pastor Maldonado for the upcoming season.
Magnussen was in the team's Enstone factory - which is transitioning from Lotus to becoming a Renault works outfit - two days last week for talks with senior executives, sources said. Although Britain's Jolyon Palmer and Venezuela's Maldonado have been announced for 2016, Renault have yet to confirm their reserve driver.
The Danish former McLaren driver was sacked on his birthday
This is the most likely option for Magnussen, but given the political uncertainty in Venezuela and the low price of oil - Maldonado brings lucrative sponsorship through the state oil company, PDVSA - the 30-year-old's place could be under threat. The first race is in Melbourne, Australia, on March 20. Magnussen had been promised the McLaren drive for 2015 over Jenson Button by the team's chairman, but Ron Dennis lost an argument with the company's Bahraini shareholders. The 23-year-old spent last year as a reserve before being notified by email on his birthday that he was dropped. The Dane has been desperately trying to find a drive to lengthen his Formula One racing career beyond the sole season with McLaren in 2014.
Magnussen may replace Pastor Maldonado (pictured)
Renault confirmed late last year their takeover of Lotus after protracted negotiations. The French manufacturer have committed to nine years in the sport although admit it will take at least three seasons before they can compete at the front.
Alain Prost, the four-time world champion, is expected to join the team's new management structure, with Matthew Carter, the former chief executive, leaving Enstone.
A spokesman for the team declined to comment.