Neel Jani has lamented the state of the global economy and the fact that for the majority of F1 teams looking for drivers, 'the primary criteria is money' – as the former A1GP Champion's latest opportunity to get a break at the highest level looks to have foundered.
After being granted a try out on McLaren's simulator earlier this year at the behest of Force India F1 – “It went very well; I did two test sessions and achieved some very good times...in one session I was the quickest and in the other I was second,” he reveals – Jani was tipped to be given a run in the Silverstone-based squad's VJM02 during the special young driver test at Jerez in southern Spain early next month.
However, following the confirmation that long-time Mercedes-backed DTM front-runner Paul di Resta and reigning Indy Lights Champion J.R. Hildebrand have been selected for the test [see separate story – click here
], it appears that Jani has been passed over again. Finances, he reveals, have always been the root of the problem for him.
“For drivers who have money, yes,” the 25-year-old told Swiss website tsr.ch
, when asked if the expansion of the grand prix grid in 2010 represents increased opportunities for young drivers such as himself. “I don't have the same means by any stretch. They say you need between €6 million and €15 million to get an F1 seat – that's the way the worldwide economy is at the moment.
“F1 costs a lot of money, and sponsors aren't around like they were five or six years ago, so drivers are being asked to contribute more financially. We all know what F1 is like; for every team except maybe three or four of them, the primary criteria [regarding driver choice] is money.”
Jani has flirted with F1 before, being appointed test driver for first Sauber in 2003 and subsequently Red Bull 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006, and he has an impressive career CV. Aside from his dominant A1GP World Cup of Motorsport glory for his country in 2007/08, the young Swiss star – whose father is Indian – has triumphed at GP2 Series level and competed more than respectably across the Pond in Champ Cars.
This time, however, the F1 door appears to be closing once more in his face, as Jani assured that he 'has not spoken' with 2010 'newcomer' Qadbak-Sauber, with whom he has been linked. Instead, he muses, he will likely focus his attentions on securing a drive in the Le Mans Series, having gained a taste for sportscar racing with Speedy Racing Team Sebah in the iconic round-the-clock Le Mans 24 Hours earlier this year.
“It's really a very interesting championship,” he reflected of the LMS, “and what's more, some teams that have left F1 to compete in endurance racing have not regretted it. You can prove there that you have a car that is at the same time fast and economical. It's the future!
“I'm currently in negotiations with a Swiss team with whom I raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year. It hadn't interested me too much beforehand, but since driving at La Sarthe I've changed my mind.”