Chilton no ordinary pay driver
15 April 2013
Max Chilton may have had to bring a substantial amount of backing to secure his place on the F1 grid this season, but his father insists that he is not a 'pay driver' in the typical sense.
Even before confirmation of Chilton's seat at Marussia came around, father Grahame was widely tipped to have paved the way for his son to graduate to the top flight, with some even suggesting that he had invested in the team itself in order to guarantee Max the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead, the funding for the driver came via a different route.
In similar fashion to fellow Briton Justin Wilson, who's short-lived time in F1 was backed by shares sold in public limited company founded in his name, Chilton has stepped up on the back of investment from as many as 40 different companies, each buying into the dream that, one day, he will make it to the front of the grid and be contending for world titles.
"With the current [financial] situation in F1, probably 75 per cent plus of the drivers on this grid have to bring something to the team," Chilton Sr told Reuters during the recent Chinese Grand Prix, "In the UK, you have what's called an Enterprise Investment Scheme, and the new venture here is investing in a young and up-and-coming driver.
"We thought it was fairly important that we made this commercially viable. [Max] didn't want me to be just paying for his drive. You need to have the commercial nous to have people who wish to back you and I think Max is commercially attractive to sponsors - he looks the part, he talks the part, but more importantly I think he drives the part."
Chilton revealed that the investors in his 21-year old offspring had paid anything from £20,000 upwards, but with no one group able to contribute more than 20 per cent of the overall fund. Chilton himself, however, is not amongst them, figuring that his financial input to Max's career has already gone above and beyond the call of parental duty.
While the system demand that Chilton Jr will have to give a way a portion of any future earnings, he believes that it is the way that more and more drivers will look to fund their dreams in future.
"Obviously it's not the dream way of doing it, because you're giving away part of your future," he commented, “but if doing what we're doing now gives you a chance to get on the grid, that's the way to go about it.”
Marussia team principal John Booth, a veteran seasoned in watching young talent struggle to climb the greasy pole towards F1 from his time in the junior formulae, confirmed that the Chiltons' project wasn't original, but applauded their efforts to secure Max's a foothold in the top flight.
“It's nothing new, and there are lots of schemes that have been tried over the years,” the Yorkshireman told journalists after a mixed day for Chilton in Friday practice, “I think Justin Wilson was the last one that I know that had a similar scheme, and sometimes it's required to find a way into F1. If it becomes self-funding, then it's a great idea.”
Having started strongly when he all but matched the times set by impressive team-mate Jules Bianchi in opening practice, Chilton's Shanghai weekend suffered a setback with his car stopping twice in the second session. He bounced back on Saturday, however, to again out-qualifying both Caterhams in the 'third division' battle at the back of the grid.
"It would be easy to focus on the negatives but, given the challenges we've faced on my side of the garage, I'm more encouraged by what we have achieved when you consider how little running we've had,” the Briton reflected, "The target was to stay the right side of the Caterhams, which I did, despite only having the one run of three laps."
In the race, Chilton battled to 17th in a 56-lap encounter again featuring little in the way of attrition, and continued to focus on the positive.
“I'm pleased that we ended our time in China on a stronger note after a few challenges along the way,” he noted, “I didn't get the best start, but things improved through the race and that was reflected in my lap time relative to [Giedo] van der Garde.
“Looking at what has been a good race and also the signs from free practice earlier in the weekend, it's all starting to come together. Importantly, we brought home another good combined result for the team and demonstrated that we can understand and respond to issues quickly to achieve the right outcome.
“I hope that we will have an easier time of it in Bahrain so I can make another positive start to the weekend and then have the opportunity to maintain that momentum."
Max Chilton may have some way to go before he is able to repay those investors, but it would appear that his stock can only rise.