PRE SEASON BUILD UP – DAY 8
They do seem ever present in 2013, the year of financial woes and funded villains but please don’t forget that the phenomenon of ‘pay drivers’ isn’t as new as we all think.
We apply this somewhat affectionate term to racers who bring a stash of gold with them. You could say that the amount of work and sacrifice required to earn a seat in F1 renders it priceless but with Pastor Maldonado’s time at Williams costing the Venezuelan government as much as £20 million a year, you can see why some may be angered by this.
But consider one thing. Was it not five-time-world-champion, and sporting legend, Juan Manuel Fangio who was also sponsored during his career by the Argentine government? Modern Formula 1 does not know how to exist in any other way.
It does seem that sometimes a contractual requirement for Sauber is sufficient funding. Perhaps it is. I personally can forgive a team that have introduced Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez to competitive cars after starting their respective careers at the Swiss outfit.
Maldonado’s victory in Barcelona did silence many critics who saw him only for his money. Esteban Gutierrez, a rookie at Sauber for 2013, may have to produce similar form if he is to warrant his place over Kamui Kobayashi. How many people will have remembered that Gutierrez finished top three in the standings during his maiden year in GP2?
Murray Walker has made it very clear – if you have a super license, you deserve your place in the sport. Whether we like it or not, pay drivers are here to stay. Perhaps it is best if we accept this and move on.
Whilst it may be a difficult to accept, sometimes the main competition emerges off the track as drivers hand in their manifestos ready to compete for the top spot in Formula 1’s political system.
Last year I spoke to Sauber reserve driver, Robin Frijns. I asked him if it was possible to describe the sensation of driving a Formula 1 car. Following his debut for the Swiss outfit at the Young Drivers Test, he explained to me “it is like going from a normal plane to an F16”. After that, the Dutchman had no words.
Ultimately, we can’t deny the young racers of today this opportunity.It may well be that the money Gutierrez brings, is affording Frijns a reserve drive. As the current BBC F1 presenter, Suzi Perry once told me on, this season has “all the ingredients” to be thrilling. Let the racing begin and the judgement of a driver’s position be reserved until the end of the season – not the beginning.
This blog post is the eighth in this year’s pre season build up. For the next six days, ‘stoodonthepodium’ will be bringing you exclusive interviews, stories, analysis and more from the world of Motorsport.
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