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Todt 'worried' pay-drivers are destroying talented rivals' F1 chances

Nicolas Todt - manager to both Felipe Massa and GP2 Series front-runner Jules Bianchi - fears that talented drivers will increasingly be edged out of F1 race seats in the future by less capable but better-heeled rivals...
ART Grand Prix co-owner Nicolas Todt has revealed his fears that the culture of pay-drivers in F1 is now so great that it is destroying the chances of more talented rivals to gain a footing on the grand prix grid – as he warned that it is becoming increasingly 'difficult' for those who truly merit a chance at the highest level.

The two clearest examples of drivers paying for their seats in F1 2010 are Vitaly Petrov at Renault and Sakon Yamamoto at newcomer Hispania Racing (HRT), but whilst the former has backed his funding up with a succession of feisty on-track performances, it would a tough case to argue that the latter is in the field for anything but his wallet.

As the manager of several top-line competitors himself – amongst them Ferrari star Felipe Massa and GP2 Series front-runner Jules Bianchi, one of the Scuderia's young driver programme members – Todt acknowledges that the global credit crunch has left many of the sport's smaller teams feeling the economic pinch and finding themselves having to prioritise sponsors over speed, but he fears for the effect this trend is having upon those who genuinely deserve to be given a break but cannot match their rivals' financial clout.

“I'm very worried,” the son of FIA President Jean Todt conceded in an interview with Italian magazine Autosprint, “because drivers used to work their way up to F1 on merit, even only a few years ago. Now, drivers who have their sponsors to thank are becoming sporadic, mostly in the smaller teams.

“Due to the worldwide economic crisis and the difficulties that lower-budget teams are consequently facing, even the most worthy young drivers are having to really fight to get onto the grand prix grid. Paradoxically, it has become harder to find a way into F1 now that there are more cockpits available.

“I do see concrete opportunities in the future for drivers who are able to combine good results with plenty of sponsorship – or those who are picked up very young by teams like Red Bull or McLaren, guaranteeing them their debut without needing financial support to make it – but for the rest, it will be more difficult.”

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Saturday Practice, Vitaly Petrov (RUS), Renault F1 Team, R30
Saturday Practice, Sakon Yamamoto (JPN), Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT), F110
Saturday, Nicola Todt (FRA), Manager of Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher (GER), Mercedes GP  F1 Team, MGP W01
Friday Practice 1, Nicola Todt (FRA), Manager of Felipe Massa
Nicolas Todt (FRA), Australian F1 Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, 14-16th, March, 2008
Saturday Practice, Nicola Todt (FRA), Manager of Felipe Massa
Sebastien Ogier, Red Bull, RB7, F1 test [Credit: Red Bull Content Pool]
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Start of the race - Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 leads
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Alan D - Unregistered

November 04, 2010 5:27 PM

Beamer, you missed out Mercedes, Michael Schumacher. Okay, maybe he isn't a pay driver in the genuine sense of the word, but I think Mercedes probably more sponsorship purely on the basis of signing Schumacher than it costs to hire him. You also missed out Ferrari, Fernando Alonso. Spanish bank Santander signed a three year sponsorship deal with Mclaren when Alonso was there, and then signed an even bigger deal with Ferrari apparently on the condition that Alonso was a Ferrari driver. Santander even paid the extra needed to terminate Kimi's contract to get Alonso in. So does that make Schumacher and Alonso into pay drivers?

Rick B

November 04, 2010 5:55 PM

Oh please, not again. Pay drivers are nothing new. No hope teams like HRT and Virgin are nothing new. The two went hand in hand for most of F1's history except for the few years in the early 21st century when F1 was dominated by manufacturer backed teams. That was the aberration, now we're back to business as usual. The only thing we need is more cars. We still have an undersized grid, with two places left and zero risk of non-qualifiers. If not qualifying becomes a real risk, teams will be very much more selective when it comes to taking on pay drivers, because it could actually cost them money.

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