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Brundle: Young driver escalator is blocked at the top

BBC commentator Martin Brundle - a man with 158 grand prix starts to his name - contends that he is not sure if he would ever have made it to F1 had he been trying to break into the big-time in 2011
BBC F1 commentator and erstwhile grand prix star Martin Brundle has expressed his fears that talent alone is no longer enough to make it all the way to the pinnacle of the sport, and that now it is 'all about money' – as he laments that the 'fast-rising escalator' of 'perfect specimens' is 'blocked at the top'.

Although there are 24 cockpits on the current grand prix grid – more than there have been for most of the past decade – in truth, the possibilities for young drivers to break into the fold are the most restricted they have ever been. Of the F1 2011 crop, at least five of those confirmed thus far secured their seats by dint of being able to bring significant sums of sponsorship to the table – in this day and age of economic austerity and financial cutbacks, an ever-important commodity.

Some observers opine that the situation has now got so far – in many of the smaller teams, at least – as to render financial clout more attractive than on-track potential, and when a competitor of the undisputed calibre of Nico Hülkenberg is forced out of a team like Williams to make way for the well-heeled Pastor Maldonado, Brundle contends that matters are out-of-hand.

“I'm very concerned about it, on several fronts,” the former McLaren, Benetton, Ligier and Jordan ace admitted, speaking during the annual pre-season Autosport International show. “I see the young driver market as this fast-rising escalator with all the drivers on, and then it's blocked at the top – there's nowhere to go.

“They're coming along, they've been karting since they were eight, they're professional racing drivers in their teens effectively, they're mentally and physically trained, they've got all the technical information and knowledge that they need, they're the perfect specimens by about 20/21 – because if you're not in F1 by then, frankly, you're possibly too old – and then they get turfed off the top of the escalator and there's nowhere to put them.

“We're seeing that with a lot of young drivers – Bruno Senna would be a good example. He's had a few dodgy races in an HRT; he's not had a shot in F1. I said to my son Alex, I don't know if I would have got through in this day and age. I always used to say up until about five years ago that if you had the talent, you will get through – somehow or other, somebody will spot you, somebody will find you, regardless of money – but now I fear it's all about money.

“When I see Nico Hülkenberg losing the Williams seat because of sponsorship from another driver, all my alarm bells are going off about where all these perfectly-prepared young racing drivers are going to go. What are we going to do with them? How do you validate a young driver now there's no testing, to put him in an F1 car?

“Red Bull use the World Series by Renault and put their young guys up against each other; it's easy for them in a way, because they've got two F1 teams to channel them into – other young drivers don't have that chance. We've got all this simulator stuff, but I'm not at all convinced you can truly validate a young driver in a simulator because there's no pressure to deliver, and flat in seventh through Copse in a simulator is an awful lot easier than in the real car...”




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Pastor Maldonado (VEN), Williams F1 Team
Pastor Maldonado (VEN), Williams F1 Team
Race, Nico Hulkenberg (GER), Williams, FW32
Saturday Practice, Nico Hulkenberg (GER), Williams, FW32
Former grand prix star and ITV F1 commentator Martin Brundle
Martin Brundle (GBR), Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, Sepang, Kuala Lumpar, 21st-23rd, March 2008
Father and son Martin and Alx Brundle team up for the Formula Palmer Audi meeting at  Spa-Francorchamps in 2008
Father and son: Martin and Alex Brundle will both race in the Formula Palmer Audi Championship at Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium
Father and son: Martin and Alex Brundle will both race in the Formula Palmer Audi Championship at Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium
27.07.2014- Race, Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W05
27.07.2014- Race, Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams F1 Team FW36 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB10
27.07.2014- Race, Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W05 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB10
27.07.2014- Race, Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W05
27.07.2014- Race, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari F14-T and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W05
27.07.2014- Race, Crash, Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM07
27.07.2014- Race, Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams F1 Team FW36
27.07.2014- Race, Crash, Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM07 and Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM07
27.07.2014- Race, Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams F1 Team FW36 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB10

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Mr B - Unregistered

January 25, 2011 6:59 PM

The problem is drivers like hamilton, vettel and alonso being so successful at such a young age. This means that they tie up a seat at one of the big teams for the forseeable future. As far as we know vettel will have a career as long as schumacher thereby blocking any new talent from a top drive. Superior talent may emerge, but then it won't have his expirence. These days i think you need to do a hamilton and get picked up by a big team at a young age and get tied into a long contract. But then that didn't work out so well for button.

Dangerous Dave - Unregistered

January 25, 2011 7:11 PM

Why don't we just arrange for a sniper to shoot the last one over the line at the end of lap 1 - that should give them all a kick up the **** and free up a space for new drivers at each GP!!



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