Bye-bye for pay drivers?

The purchase of the Minardi team by Red Bull is bad news for wealthy journeymen hoping to use their capacious wallets to sneak their way into Formula One by the back door, writes Alan Baldwin of Reuters (subscription required).

On the face of it this may seem like cause for cheer. If Formula One is truly the pinnacle of motorsport, then surely it cannot stand to have less-than-worthy drivers filling up the midfield? Ricardo Rosset, Tarso Marques, Alex Yoong et al did not do much to advance the sport’s credibility, did they?

Clearly not. But the Red Bull approach may simply replace pay drivers with ‘PR drivers’ – who have a fair slice of talent but are more remarkable for their perfect fit for a team or sponsor’s market ambitions. The perfect example is Scott Speed, who will surely find himself in one of the four Red Bull berths next year, thanks in no small measure to the irresistible combination of his talent, his Red Bull-honed PR savvy, and the fact that he is American.

No, it’s not a new phenomenon, but expect it to put the pinch on the pay driver. Sorry, Channoch…

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