Former F1 racer Martin Brundle says he is starting to feel 'uncomfortable' with the spread of pay drivers on the grid.
While drivers paying for the place on the grid is nothing new, an increasing number of teams have been forced to look for racers who can bring substantial financial backing to the table, with sponsorship being key to deals such as the one that has seen Pastor Maldonado join Lotus for 2014.
The Enstone-based team missed out on the chance to retain the services of Kimi Raikkonen when much documented financial issues led to the Finn electing to re-sign with Ferrari.
Speaking on the main stage during the Autosport International
show at the NEC in Birmingham, Brundle admitted that there was cause for concern in the increasing number of pay drivers, but said the situation wasn't a straightforward one.
"The main problem is that they've got to stop it being so expensive to run the cars, so it stops the need for all this cash they are short of," the Sky Sports
commentator replied in response to a question raised by a fan. "When a team like Lotus, who were the only one to really challenge Red Bull consistently last year, is short of money and can't pay bills then something is fundamentally wrong.
"One way or another, the racing's got to be paid for. Whether it's with Santander following Fernando Alonso around, or Vodafone when they had Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button for the British market, somewhere it's got to be paid for by someone.
"You can't go racing on fresh air and there's no doubt that the pay drivers are creeping their way up the grid. But they're still great racing drivers. Don't think anybody who's paid to be there is not a high-level racing driver as you still need a super licence, but the balance is getting dangerously close to pay drivers being dominant.”
Brundle added however that the 'pay driver' tag was one that could be deceptive and that drivers paying to get onto the F1 grid was nothing new.
"It's an awful expression,” he said. “It's a label that you just can't get rid of. Niki Lauda makes the point that he had to pay and to borrow money from a bank to pay for his early drives in Formula 1.
"I promised Ken Tyrrell £150,000 I just didn't have in 1984. I was just winging it and eventually he said to me 'I know you don't have the money but I want you to drive for me anyway'. One way or another, you have to bring in the money, so let's not get too hung up about it.
"However it's disappointing when you see a driver like Paul di Resta getting booted out of F1 when you know that others are in because they're bringing cash. That's the bit I'm getting uncomfortable with."