The Rise of the Pay Driver

Money is the driving force of all business, and now in the modern world, it drives sport. Once talented athletes were praised by many, but moving through into the 21st century, drivers are now becoming monetary assets supplying large funds, instead of bringing the car home for points, podiums and wins. The pay driver is now becoming a bigger reality for F1 than ever before…

Formula 1 is sport of which has seen some of the greatest drivers ever known with the names of Fangio, Prost, Senna and Schumacher. Yet, it has also seen some courageous and heroic drivers who have been favourites to win championships, but never did. The list includes Gurney, McLaren, the Rodriguez brothers, Cevert and Gilles Villeneuve. They all had battles which saw cars sliding sideways, tyres that would touch and where the lead of the drivers’ championship would sway from one driver to another like a pendulum.  Drivers were worshiped by fans and had Godly auras about them. We ask ourselves why this racing could have been more enjoyable to watch all those years ago, and the simple straight forward answer would be “because they were better than they are today”.  It was the raw ruthless competitiveness that was the backbone of Formula 1 which aided its immense success.


Regrettably F1 has drifted into a world of which its axis spins on money, and the drivers being introduced the sport or those looking to make a switch of teams are often considered on a monetary basis before ability. This is something that could prove to be detrimental to our sports future. Quite simply, the sports survival is down to the fans alone. Fans can spend hundreds of euros on tickets to go and watch a race weekend, and those who don’t, watch from the comfort of their couch in their living rooms and are equally important to FOM (Formula One Management). This is because television is a chance for companies to advertise their products to the viewers at home. But fans don’t want to see drivers of which their financial contribution exceeds their own talent. It is always enjoyable to see fresh blood come into the sport, yes, but we need drivers to prove themselves and rise up the ranks and in the standings. Fernando Alonso is a fantastic example of that. He started out his early days in Minardi, before making a move to Enstone based team, Renault. There, he developed himself and the team into World Champions.  Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher chime with Fernando’s progressive career. However there is one exception to this. Pay drivers have “paid” off in the past.  In 1991, Michael Schumacher replaced a certain Bertrand Gachot, who had to serve a compulsory prison sentence for attacking a taxi driver before the Belgian Grand Prix. The assault was argued to be self-defence and excessive use of pepper spray. Schumacher managed to get an impressive € 125 000 to take Gachot’s place in the Jordan team that weekend. Little did Irish team owner Eddie Jordan, know that he was in fact signing a future seven time world champion.

Schumacher Jordan Eau Rouge

The late and great Ayrton Senna himself said that drivers ought to act as a unit, otherwise “the financial and political interests of the organisers and constructors come to the fore.” And it seems as though the antithesis of Senna’s ideals have been realized today. Drivers come and go as frequently as their sponsorships. Marrussia were set to have Max Chilton and Luis Razia in their driver line up in 2013 but due to a fall through of sponsorship, Razia was let off from a drive and thus Jules Bianchi took the reins. Max Chilton on the other hand has broken a record of completing all 19 races in his rookie season. What some don’t realize is that Max struggled during the year against other drivers. He was only able to finish roughly 97% of the season due to being lapped a number of times… Pastor Maldonado is also another controversial name in the pit lane. Backed by the Venezuelan oil giant, PDVSA, Pastor has been able to make his mark on F1, not just the sport, but against Armco and other driver’s cars. Pastor was prone to accidents. The fiery South American finished up at Williams in 2013 without the hopes for a chance of renewing his contract with the legendary team, and thus he looked elsewhere.  With the significant absence of Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus in 2014, the Enstone team had been left with a void to fill. Favourites such as Felipe Massa, and Nico Hulkenburg were set to drive next to Roman Gosjean, but with F1 as it is today, their drives would come at a cost. Hulkenburg’s only hope at scoring a seat in a Lotus for 2014 was to come with the signing of a sponsorship deal with Quantum. The deal wasn’t met and Nico’s chances were dropped entirely. With possible financial strains, Lotus turned to Maldonado. Though he has a hefty backing behind him, Pastor has proved on occasions in the past he is capable of winning race(s) and scoring good points. 2014 proved to be a testing year for him, as expected. Sweden’s Marcus Ericson has a sturdy financial background. After joining Caterham for 2014, he is already bound for Sauber. At Spa, Marcus qualified almost a full second behind his competitor, Andre Lotterer. That weekend was Lotterer’s first Grand Prix.

Pastor Lotus PDVSA

This is where sense is made with the possibilities of budget caps. Teams would have a limit on how much they can invest into their teams and their development throughout a single season. With any luck, this would reduce teams searching for driver with a strong financial backing. It would hopefully introduce a trend where the driver’s skills are paramount over what he has to offer financially and consequently we will see purer drivers and purer racing.

Formula 1 needs to be a race for the championships and not the sponsors.

Revs for thought


Credit for pictures


About dphansen24

I am an avid freelance Formula 1 writer and blogger. My writings are diverse and range from historical insights, to thorough and exciting analysis of the modern era and the topics that come with it. I am also able to take in requests from readers that wish to gain vision into particular stories. All are welcome. I encourage constructive criticism and conversation in comments or via email. My passion for the world’s fastest show consumes my daily efforts and I am always enthused to write about the sport I love most. Even as a pundit, I too have a curiosity and am always ready to learn more about an ever expanding sport.

Posted on December 15, 2013, in Currents News, Original Pieces and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It is a huge shame that money plays a such a role in deciding who gets to drive where. In my own opinion Maldonado should not be at a team as high up the field as Lotus. I feel that a better driver could have easily had that seat but as you say, money talks.

    Nice blog, I am following you. Feel free to check my blog out and follow back, thanks 🙂

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