Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2012

The pay driver debate needs to move on

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2012In professional sport the viewing public expect the competitors to be the best in their discipline.

If I were to turn up at Old Trafford with 20 million quid I would not be able to buy myself a place in Manchester United’s starting eleven. Nor would my wad serve as a ticket to the middle of an England rugby scrum or get me in the starting blocks alongside Usain Bolt.

My imaginary budget pales in comparison to the enormous revenues Formula One generates every year. And that is precisely why a lot of people have a hard time accepting the place of pay drivers in Formula One.

A cause for concern

The subject of pay drivers has been a theme of the off-season. Experienced drivers like Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock have been shown the door while the sport has welcomed drivers whose passage through the lower ranks owes much to their funding as well as their ability.

It’s a debate which provokes some unsatisfactory knee-jerk responses. The first is that it is nothing to worry about because there have been pay drivers in F1 before.

Of course it is true that drivers have bought places in F1 before. And many of them were more egregiously unqualified for the job than those who are paying their way in today.

But as long as there are objectively better qualified and less well financed drivers being left on the sidelines, the disquiet over pay drivers will not go away. The sport has greater media exposure today that it has ever enjoyed, and unpalatable facts like these one are less likely to be glossed over.

Others respond to the pay driver debate by pointing out that there are still many fine drivers in F1. This is certainly true as this recent article makes clear.

But if F1 is not going to be about the 22 best drivers in the world then how few are we prepared to settle for? Eleven? Five? Two?

Fernando Alonso may not be in imminent danger of losing his seat to Channoch Nissany. And Ma Qing Hua is not about to be announced as an 11th-hour replacement for Sebastian Vettel.

But at the other end of the grid drivers who were being paid are being replaced by drivers who are paying their way. And I do not believe any argument which says that is a good thing for Formula One.

Survival, not greed

The most unhelpful debates are those where opposing sides don’t engage with each other. That’s what I feel is happening when I read comments from fans complaining about the rise of pay drivers and responses from journalists saying ‘it’s OK, F1 has had pay drivers before’.

I agree that paid drivers being replaced by paying drivers can only be bad for the sport. And I agree that there have been paid drivers in F1 before. Can we accept that both these points of view are reasonable, not mutually exclusive and move on to the next point?

F1’s smaller teams are not getting rid of their experienced drivers and bringing in well-heeled rookies out of greed. They’re doing it to survive.

The sport has already lost one team over the winter. The rise in pay drivers is not just bad for F1’s reputation as a professional sport, it’s a sign that its financial model has become unsustainable even with a less than full field.

It’s time for the pay driver debate to move on and become a discussion about why F1’s huge income is apparently inadequate to sustain what should be the 11 best teams and 22 best racing drivers in the world.


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167 comments on “The pay driver debate needs to move on”

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  1. Fully agree with this. I suppose it’s easy to get caught up on one issue when it’s the one that seems most prominent – but as you say it’s more a sign that the greed cannot be sustained. Circuits not being able to afford to stage the races, dwindling attendances in places (germany for example?), and the simple fact that teams have to resort to employing the most valuable driver rather than the most talented point to this.

    The nature of greed though, I think will mean not much will change until it absolutely HAS to.

    1. You’re right to bring the circuits into this – the bigger picture needs to be considered.

      Formula 1 has left many of its traditional homes in Europe behind to head for pastures new in any country rich enough to hold a race, such as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Presumably Bernie Ecclestone is charging the organisers of those races a fortune, because he knows he can. Meanwhile, the remaining traditional circuits are feeling the squeeze of the year-on-year fee escalator. All of that means that the teams should have more money than ever before, yet only a few of them are able to employ drivers purely on merit, with no financial considerations. Why is that?

      I think it comes down to two things. Firstly, I think the teams aren’t getting a large enough share of the cake. But that’s largely their own fault – every attempt at collective bargaining so far has unravelled when one or two teams realise they can get more for themselves by going it alone. Secondly, I think they need to control costs a lot more effectively than they have been doing. As someone said a year or two ago, fans don’t care whether the teams are spending £2 or £2000 on each wheel nut, as it doesn’t affect “the show”, but any team rich enough will still spend £2000 on each one if they feel it gives them even a one-hundredth of a second advantage, while those who aren’t rich enough will start to look for extra income so that they can keep up. Again, the teams could quite easily sort that out themselves if they really wanted to.

      I don’t think the situation will change as long as Ecclestone is in his job. He is too powerful and too shrewd a negotiator to give anything away to the teams, and they in turn are too greedy to look beyond their own short-term self-interest for the good of the sport.

      1. Probably one of the more measured analysis I’ve seen in a very long time. Well said.

  2. Completly agree with that statement Keith!

    It’s rediculous to see how much money is pored into f1, from sponsors, teamowners, televisionrights, hosting fees etc. It amounts to billions of euro’s/dollars/pounds….

    Which just goes to show that tyhe money is not going where it should, and by that I mean Bernie’s backpocket

    1. I think the sport’s younger and poorer teams can survive without resorting to pay drivers, but most of that help would have to come from the FOA. Maybe changing the payouts to teams of television rights and points to cash allocation system needs to be tweaked to give the smaller teams a chance.

      I do not see any of this happenning while Bernie is around though..he seems way to concerned with hoarding all the money he can before he pops it.

      1. I have been banging on about the financial drain foisted onto F1 by B.E. so long that I worry other readers are going to brand me a grumpy old fart and skip my comments. This is a serious threat to F1.

    2. @keithcollantine – you can rightfully give yourself comment of the day, well done sir!

  3. Drop Valencia!
    15th February 2013, 9:32

    Maybe we should let these pay drivers actually drive a GP or 2 before we **** can them….

    1. The issue isn’t the drivers themselves, but the reasons they get the seats, surely it should be results and talent that attract them opportunities in F1, and not their wallets.

    2. There is a regulatory process already in place when obtaining a super license. All drivers wishing to race in F1 must meet those requirements. So I say, if drivers meet those requirements then they deserve to be in F1, be it a paying driver or not. So the only thing that can really have any influence to “paying” drivers is the FIA and their rules.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with this article. The fair distribution of F1’s significant earnings is a topic that needs to be addressed. If not, only a handful of teams will be able to survive, & the sport cannot survive with just a handful of teams.

  5. Why is it upsetting to see less capable pay drivers take the place of great paid drivers? It’s us fans that romanticize F1 and think of it as a drivers sport. But I don’t think it is. It’s a team sport, so F1 doesn’t need to have the best drivers in every car. The teams have different objectives, for some, it makes sense to put in a pay driver.

    I don’t worry about it. My attention is focused towards the front of the grid. The regular drivers there are paid drivers.

    1. I don’t worry about it. My attention is focused towards the front of the grid. The regular drivers there are paid drivers.

      Well, isn’t that a bit short sighted, if not naive? If the trend of increasing number of pay drivers continues, the “front of the grid” too will consist of pay drivers in a not too distant future.

      Besides that, if you don’t see this as a problem anyway because “it’s is a team sport”? Why would your attention only be on the front of the grid where “the regular drivers there are paid drivers”?

    2. I don’t think it “romanticises” any sport to suggest that at its pinnacle it should not be contested by those who are less than the best. It’s not as if there are many other major international sports where that is the case – certainly not those F1 likes to compare itself to in terms of popularity such as football or the Olympics.

      1. Another often overlooked fact about past pay drivers is that they often purchased their “customer cars” from a top team and ran as amateurs alongside (behind mostly) the full field of teams.

    3. I tend to agree with this.

      I think most of us probably overemphasize how much the driver really contributes anyway. It’s kind of hard to measure because of the qualifying format, but how much is the back of the field off the pace of the front? Three or four seconds, maybe?

      Okay, how much of that is the driver and how much is the car? Honestly, we can never entirely know. But, the cars at the back of the field are not capable of competing with the front, or even middle, of the field. Insert Alonso, or Vettel, or Hamilton into a Marussia and they’re not going to miraculously put that car in the top 10. People may bring up Senna, but what he was able to do happened in a much different era and he was clearly a talent beyond the norm.

      I think if a “pay” driver were really terrible and incapable of holding his own, first he wouldn’t even get a super licencse, and second, his pace would be so far off the field, he wouldn’t meet the 107% rule.

      Ultimately, just becuase someone is paying for a seat does not mean they’re not a good driver. That just seems to be the perception.

  6. It’s a shame that formula 1 is about money and about surviving, but all the so-called pay drivers at Marussia and Caterham have proven their racing skills in lower formulae (in my opinion that is).

    The debate has reached it’s peak after Kovalainen was replaced by Van der Garde. Although Giedo spent way too much time in lower formulae, he did manage to win races and/or fought for the championship in every class he has competed in. Mainly because of this he managed to attract sponsors rather than the other way around. It’s not like the pay-drivers from today are the new Nissany’s, Hua’s, Belmondo’s, Rosset’s or Délétraz’s, are they?

    1. @matthijs It’s true that the quality of drivers paying their way in is better than it has been some times. But I don’t think it’s good enough that a driver can tread water in junior championships for year after year courtesy of his sponsors, then get a seat at an F1 by dint of the fact that more capable drivers have been priced out of competing.

      1. I agree with you in the basis. I believe that drivers as Kovalainen, Glock and Kobayashi are too good to be replaced, so in that way it is a negative development. But it’s not like (future) world champions are being replaced by idiots. Furthermore, Maldonado fits your definition of a driver that treads water in junior championships for year after year courtesy of his sponsors, but appears to be a valuable driver now.

        So, I agree with you on the negative trend, but in the end the trade-off in talent is not that big.

  7. I think Commercial rights holder (CVC) should be made to have a proportional share holding in each F1 team – That way they would be reluctant to drain their assets of as much money that they do and ensure they have an eye on increasing the value of the teams rather than compromising it.

    That said, F1 teams receive massives revenues and alot is spent on drivers salaries, top managaement salaries and expensive marketing activities. The whole sport needs to have a look at its self and get some regulation in place to ensure that if the current financial climate continues that there is a sport in 5 years time.

  8. I do sometimes ask myself whether the teams how too much power over Formula One. Barcelona and Real Madrid don’t have any power over the rules of football, so I don’t really understand why teams in F1 should have power. Perhaps the FIA need to give the teams the impression that the teams need Formula One, more than the FIA needs them and if any team threatens to go, then the FIA should stand their ground and let them. If this happens, then there would be fewer problems in implementing budget caps.

    Perhaps I’ve missed something here, but I don’t like how the teams can protest against changes in the rules.

    1. Barcelona and Real do can protest rules change, they just act under a more stable framework. Plus, Spanish football economics is just as bad as Formula 1, it’s a club with two very important member who eat 80% of the pie leaving the rest for the rest…

    2. I agree that the teams have too much input into the rules of the sport at the moment. Lots of the proposed aerodynamic changes have been watered down at the teams’ insistence, because the big teams are afraid of losing their position at the top of the pecking order. We could have ground effects back by now if not for the teams.

      FOTA has made things even worse – the teams operating as a bloc has meant that the big teams have subdued the smaller ones. At least in the old days the dissenting voices of smaller teams like Jordan and Minardi (under Paul Stoddart) meant that the big teams couldn’t change absolutely everything to their advantage.

    3. When one looks at the reluctance of Spanish justice to give information on other sporters using dope from doctor Ferrari (claimed to have contained a lot of Real Madrid players), I doubt that in effect these teams have much less influence in Spain than teams like Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren have in F1 @slr

    4. It’s a very different situation- the rules in football don’t regularly change to anywhere where the same degree. Changes in F1’s rules can dramatically affect teams, and sometimes (not always) they are best placed to argue why a particular change might not be for the best.

  9. Valentine’s Day might be over but let me say that I truly love F1 Fanatic for articles, such as this.

    I’m a Kovalainen fan but I don’t think that I’ll stop watching F1 just because Kovalainen has left to give way for a combination of less talent and more cash. And I certainly won’t stop watching F1 just because the current GP2 champion isn’t on the grid, while four guys, who were behind him are going to make their F1 debuts this year. Even more, I wish all the rookies best of luck and hope that they are going to do well and exceed expectations. One could also say that most fans cheer for the best drivers and the top teams so, as long as McLaren, Ferrari, Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton are there, everything’s fine.

    But the trends are worrying. If there are persistent rumours that McLaren hired Perez (instead of Hulkenberg or di Resta) because of his sponsors, then something has clearly gone wrong here, even if these rumours are not true. Is the current business model of F1 sustainable? Who will replace Hamilton and Alonso when they retire? Who is going to come in place of Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus if these teams drop out of F1 for whatever reasons? Small teams with more pay drivers or maybe no one? These are the questions that we should ask ourselves today and saying that HRT were miserable anyway and that Glock was no world champion anyway won’t help to find the answers to them.

  10. I also agree that pay drivers shouldn’t be driving in F1. If a team cannot survive without pay drivers, than it shouldn’t be on F1 grid either.

    But one thing that I read a few weeks ago in BBC article about F1 astonished me. It said:

    “F1’s entire global TV rights income is about the same as that of the Turkish football Premier League – in the region of $490m.”


    F1 is one of the most popular sports in the world, it’s viewing figures are about 600 m (correct me if I’m wrong) and Bernie is trying to sign very profitable agreements with tracks around the world and he knows how to do business. So I don’t get it, why they can’t earn more? What’s the problem?

    1. @osvaldas31 I wonder whether that figure is after CVC take their slice.

      1. @keithcollantine, I also thought that figure very strange, but as you say maybe that is the “profit” after FOM/CVC take their costs/fees .We really need clarity in this area, after all, Bernies great talent is screwing every last dollar out of “partners”, why such a poor result from TV. ?
        BTW how much was the Sky UK deal worth?

        1. Given that most of the “cost” at CVC are actually interest payments for loans taken to give them their investment back up front, its a figure that is certainly lower than it could be to reflect how much the sport really brings to the participants.

      2. By coincidence (or not), there is an article on the BBC webs ite ( which states that –

        F1’s income was about £963m ($1.5bn) in 2011, the last year for which figures were published.

        1. that figure has been known for some time but the breakup into various sources of income like TV sales, track payments (20x$30m?) are not available.

          1. Yes, quite so. CVC is a private company, isn’t it? So they don’t have to publish accounts, so we can’t do a back-calculation from there.

  11. I think thier is to many pay drivers in f1 and I think it sends a bad message out about F1.

  12. The comparison to football is a little unfair. The fact is that F1 is about the performance of driver, team and machinery. It’s not just about individual raw talent. Indeed, this complexity is precisely what draws most of us to F1. If the difference between a good an great driver is say 0.4 seconds a lap, and a good driver can bring to a team the investment required to produce a 0.5 second per lap improvement, then it makes sense for the team to take this ‘pay driver.’ That’s nothing to be ashamed of: it’s part of the sport and should remain so, in my opinion. There are formulae out there in which everyone races in more or less the same car, and in my view these lack the on and off track excitement and fascination of F1.

    1. @davidjh But they aren’t making that determination based on a few tenths of a second here versus a few tenths of a second there. They’re making it based on “if we don’t get in someone who can pay we can’t go racing”.

      1. Well, then that’s the difference between 0.4 sec per lap and 1’21.345 per lap, isn’t it?

        1. @azwing yes, which is brings us on to the topic of costs. That is a whole other discussion though.

          I definetly think that that money shouldn’t influence who gets a seat – money doesn’t buy you talent. When it comes to two drivers who are very closely matched but one brings £10m in sponsorship I have no gripes against the team taking the funds but when we are seeing drivers like Chilton, who definetly aren’t the best drivers out there, something needs to be fixed.

          Perhaps if the junior leagues put less emphasis on money and more on talent we would see more great drivers coming through the ranks as apposed to living sponsors, enough to justify the extra talent over the speed which money undoubtably brings. So maybe this is an issue that needs to be tackled in the embryonic stages, which is what John Surtees has rightly highlighted.

      2. I agree with David’s comment, that just because one driver has to pay for a seat in a team while another draws a salary doesn’t mean the first driver is lesser of a driver than the second. There are corporates who like to be associated with particular drivers, for example there is a Spanish bank that liked to be associated with Alonso, so whenever he shifted teams, they would cancel their sponsorship with the ex-current team and shift to the new one. It wouldn’t surprise me if all of the top drivers have corporates that do this. No one thinks this is wrong.

  13. I don’t mind pay-drivers too much, there are staff bills to pay after all and some of them are pretty handy behind the wheel. These teams have hundreds of staff with all hopes resting on the talents of two drivers, I suspect they don’t hire those with no skill at all.

    What I really object to is all the money that comes into CVC only 47%* of it reaches the teams.
    If that is true that means around £500,000.00 is going disappearing to the hands of speculators and other venture capital types.

    As you mention it Keith; considering the debt of a lot of football clubs I wager that if you turned up with 20 million quid in a few years time they would let you kick the ball for a few minutes towards the end of the game if the result was secured.

    * (

    1. £500,000,000.00 even

    2. I was thinking that too. Drawing comparasions between pay drivers in F1 and paying to play at Manchester United or Real Madrid is unfair. If you think of these teams as the Ferrari’s, Mclarens, and Red Bull’s – they don’t take pay drivers.

      My football team play in the Blue Square Conference. I can pretty much guarantee they’d sign me up for a season if I gave them £20 million quid. Infact, there’s rumours of it happening in the past. (Players being kept on because their fathers funded the youth teams for example).

      When you get to the level I follow football at, our budget deficit runs at around £1.5 million a year. You’d be mad to think that the chairman wouldn’t be happy to plug that with a pay-to-play player. Whether anyone would want to on the other, based on how fans and teammates might react is another matter.

  14. I’m not as young as I’d like to be but being just under 30 doesn’t qualify me as “old” enough unless I’m a professional athlete. But I started watching F1 in early 1990’s when I was a kid and by the end of 1990 I was already addicted to F1 and I struggle to recall a grid without the so called “pay driver”.

  15. I don’t think the pay driver issue is any different today than its always been, Less funded teams have always brought in at least 1 driver who has backing.

    I also think that the concept of a pay driver is different now compared to what it was in the past as you have drivers who are part of a driver development program or have backing from companies aiming to assist local talent etc….

    Also the drivers who do pay there way into F1 today tend to actually be decent drivers who have had success in lower categories such as GP3/GP2 & WSBR.
    In the past pay drivers simply brought there way into F1 having done nothing in lower categories & were clearly well out of there depth in F1 & that simply doesn’t happen now.

    Also there’s this illusion that F1 only features the very best drivers in the world, In reality that has never been the case & likely never will be.

    1. I don’t think the pay driver issue is any different today than its always been.

      Did you read the article? We all know that there have been paid drivers in F1 before. It’s not a secret. It’s not some obscure fact that needs to be pointed out every time. But it’s not an argument. This is still a negative phenomenon and we should try to reduce it. Just because it’s a part of the status quo, doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing.

    2. Two rongs don’t make a right!

      1. @stefmeister Maybe the pay driver situation is not worse (or even better) than the situation 10-15 years ago, but the reason I and probably many others are so annoyed about it this time is that there was a period in the 2000s when pay drivers had all but disappeared from the sport. In fact 2008 was probably the only season in history when every driver uarguably deserved his place in Formula 1 merit (yes, even Piquet), either based on past F1 acheivements or success in junior formulae. The pay driver plague of the 90s had been all but eradicated but now it’s back, and there are fewer teams to soak up the chaff.

        1. You mean to say that in a sustained economic boom with a massive amount of commercial revenue flowing into F1 (which was also buttressed by several manufacturer teams), there was an almost total absence of pay drivers? And now we’re in a prolonged period of austerity and low growth teams are beginning to employ them again?


          1. Well now you’ve put it like that @ilanin I think it’s perfectly fine for my favourite sport to compromise its quality and it doesn’t bother me at all that wastrels like Razia and van der Garde are taking drives from quality drivers. I mean, what’s the point of getting passionate about anything when you can just look at in the context of the wider economic climate and shrug.

  16. Who cares? As long as the top drivers are in the cars fighting for the championship. I’m sure there are plenty of better drivers than the pay drivers but if they are truly exceptional then they shud still make it through….

    1. With such an attitude, how do you expect new top drivers to get into the sport and to the top teams? Alonso and Webber started with Minardi, Massa and Kimi with Sauber. Top drivers who all started and developed in teams further down the grid.

  17. I have voiced my opinion before on this matter: in my opinion Formula 1 is too ‘big’. Bernie Ecclestone’s vision was to have as many people watch Formula 1 as possible. And because more people have started watching Formula 1, the ‘income’ of many parties has increased spectacularly. Just to name a few: TV broadcasters pay huge sums of money to broadcast Formula 1, but still are able to make a profit out of that. Teams are able to spend more money on developing the car meaning that most Formula 1 cars are almost at the end of their iteration process, making the cars more similar than ever. Circuits are able to spend money to accomodate for the enormous attention they get. In a way, the amount of money that parties are able to spend is directly influenced by the number of people watching races.

    But this system that has been created over the past decades simply isn’t stable: the money flow in Formula 1 today is enormous. And this has got to the point that those parties that I mentioned earlier simply cannot keep up with the costs increases: teams are forced to hire so-called ‘pay drivers’. Free-to-air broadcasting has become unsustainable and therefore many countries now only have F1 broadcasting on not pay-channels (for instance Canal+ in France, which was announced just this morning). Circuits like the Nürburgring are on the verge of collapsing.

    I have used this sentence before: in my opinion, Formula 1 is fundamentally flawed. The philosophy that Formula 1 needs to be watched by as many people as possible is a business approach. I think that the big bosses of Formula 1 should see Formula 1 as a sport and make the quality of racing the most important issue. This would redeem us from gizmos that are a tool to make the sport more spectacular and therefore more ‘attractive’ to watch (DRS to name one). The consequence of this is that the sport will have to shrink, meaning that the number of sponsors goes down, team size and expenses will go down and of course the quality of media coverage (which is at an all-time high) goes down. But I am willing to watch Formula 1 with poorer media coverage if that would mean that the show becomes an actual sport.

    The reality however is that this is a utopic situation I’m sketching. So instead of the ideal situation (in my opinion that is) Formula 1 should shrink artificially. Budget caps for example are a good place to start. I’m not an expert in the financial side of Formula 1, but if there is any way that the circuits will pay a smaller entry fee, and broadcasters would pay less for the broadcasting rights, then this should be done as well. But if Formula 1 will continue its path with a ‘grow is the way to go’ mentality, I seriously doubt whether I’m still watching this ‘show’ in ten years time.

    1. I honestly don’t see a problem with drivers being able to field cars from previous years and having to pre-qualify them if they want to race so badly.

    2. I think I agree.
      ‘Grass roots’ racing is progressivelly more attractive to me than the all-singing, all-dancing, Paddock Club approach of F1.

  18. Well… it’s never going to be about the 22 best drivers in the world. Some countries still have it difficult to place a driver in the top series even if they do very very well. I mean, without backing, it’s certainly impossible.

    I’m sure in football it’s the same. It doesn’t show much because there are a lot more top tier footballers than F1 drivers around the world. But without that contact, that guy that put you in, it must be terribly difficult.

    The problem is that motorsport generates a lot of income, but it comes at a huge cost aswell. Teams need much more money than a football team might need. And in a short period of time, they might be out of bussiness altogether. So I understand Marussia for signing Razia and showing Glock the door… they didn’t put a 35 years old guy on the seat, they got a young, talented driver.

    Yes, it’s not ideal. But van der Garde, Chilton and Razia are good drivers. I do think it’s good to look back and see past “pay drivers” to understand that at least there’s a minimum, acceptable, standard now… at least with teams like Marussia and Caterham that are willing to improve rather than just survive like HRT:

    1. @fer-no65

      I do think it’s good to look back and see past “pay drivers” to understand that at least there’s a minimum, acceptable, standard now

      Is there? Last year a touring car driver who’d made a grand total of four starts in single-seaters in the previous three years was driving in official F1 practice sessions.

      1. But not in qualifying or races. I personally don’t particularly care if they fish 24 guys out of the crowd to run in free practice sessions.

      2. Also, in 2011 a touring car driver who’d made a grand total of no starts in single-seaters in the previous four years scored 27 points for Force India.

        1. But that driver won a prestigious championship in the year before he joined the F1 grid. I hope you admit that is a big difference @ilanin

          1. Not to mention the fact that he’d had extensive testing experience in F1 cars including in free practice sessions the previous season. It was a completely different situation. I was just protesting against using having started single-seater races as a universal measure of driving experience.

          2. Ok, I get your point there @ilanin. But as you write yourself, even if it would be, then Di Resta would still have more single seater experience to prove he is up to it.

      3. @keithcollantine read:

        at least with teams like Marussia and Caterham that are willing to improve rather than just survive like HRT:

        Other than that, well, in the 90’s that’d have put him on a seat at a proper Grand Prix…

        I also want to say that I agree with what you’re saying, It’s bad to see stuff like this happening, but we’ve seen worse. It’s up to F1 to adjust itself to the current financial situation, so “pay drivers” don’t exist. But we have to be grateful that we don’t have Karthikeyan racing again this year.

  19. The whole problem of pay drivers can easily be traced back to the ownership model of the sport. There’s no problem with the amounts of money the sport generates – the broadcasting contracts, the hosting fees, the ticket revenues etc. – the problem is that a massively disproportionate amount of this money doesn’t go to the participants in the sport but is simply syphoned off to pay Bernie and CVC.

    I see that Martin Whitmarsh has told the BBC today that seven of the eleven F1 teams are in “survival mode” due to their lack of funds. However, I really do think that the teams need to take a look at themselves and realise just how badly they’ve played their hand over the past few years. The time has been absolutely ripe for the teams to collectively come together and change the terms on which revenue is shared. The short-term duration of each of the last few Concorde Agreements, the recession in the Western world, the exits of Toyota, Honda and BMW, the Ecclestone bribery scandal – all should have been exploited mercilessly by the teams to get the deal they want.

    I for one was actually quite happy when FOTA announced plans to form breakaway series in 2009. By removing CVC/Ecclestone from the equation, many of the problems of the sport could be solved – we could have cheaper tickets for races as circuits would not be bound to pay ridiculously expensive hosting fees, races in countries where there is actually an interest in the sport rather than races in the cities that pay the most and teams that are independently viable rather than having to rely on sponsorship or cash-rich parent organisations. This would not only solve the “pay driver” issue but also in turn attract more teams to the sport and raise the standard of competition as a whole.

    Essentially, CVC/Ecclestone are being paid a vast proportion of the revenues of the sport to fulfil an administrative role – arranging the calendar, delivering the equipment and organising the broadcasting contracts. The role they perform cold easily be performed by another organisation. It is the teams that hold the power – the names of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus etc. and the drivers they have under contract – these are what the sport derives its value from.

    I therefore have little sympathy for Whitmarsh and the other team principals when they complain about pay drivers or the distribution of revenue. The fact of the matter is, the teams held most of the cards in recent Concorde Agreement negotations but failed to press their advantage home. They fell to the usual Bernie “divide and conquer” tactic and only have themselves to blame for not getting the deal they deserve.

    1. Good comment, you’re definitely on to something. But I don’t think this entire matter can be solved by removing Bernie and friends from the equation – it’s more complicated than that. It doesn’t solve the problem that teams like Caterham and Marussia can never become competitive, simply because their budget is way less than Red Bull’s, McLaren’s and so on. The issue of pay drivers will not be resolved because of that. I also disagree with you that there’s no problem with the amounts of money the sport generates: from a sport’s point of view, the desire to satisfy an enormous audience is effectively killing the sport.

      1. I read both your comments and I think the truth is, you are both right.

        The reason as you say that the business model is wrong, can in part be attributed to the need to take money from the sport into Bernie and others hands.

        If you could reduce the middle man, you would have less overhead, and wouldn’t need to raise as much money from circuits or TV stations.

        I personaly believe that F1 is failing because it needs too much money to operate(taking money away being a major reason) and at the same time, it tries to force teams into a financial paradox.

        They need results in order to get money in order to get results. How is this supposed to work? Right it doesn’t, we see proof today. Unless a team comes to F1 with a huge amount of money to burn(like manufacturers), you can’t break the paradox. Simple luck(like Brawn’s miracle just because of the technical rules) is not enough. Eventualy they fail and they will leave.

        In my opinion what F1 would realy need is to reduce the vast financial gap between the teams. Call me utopian, I don’t care(frankly F1’s current model is more of a failing utopia than mine), I’d like to see is say 100 million(imaginary numbers here) to each team minimum budget for every team, plus 10-20% of that to be earned extra according to finishing standings. That minimum budget would exist together with a cap.

        With that it would be up to true technological innovation, effort and brains for each team to find performance within the budget, and NOT be a competition based on who got most fans or brand. But good luck with that, some people will rather let it become a competition between 1-3 teams and 2-3 drivers and everyone else is just moving chicanes(evidenced by opinions last year about how the championship was “too” unpredictable).

        1. I don’t think it’s too utopian to call for some sort of budget cap. Look at football where the Premier League teams have just agreed to costs controls (from next seasons, clubs will not be permitted to make a total loss of more than £105m over 3 seasons and must limit their wage bill) and where UEFA have imposed financial fair play rules on clubs competing in European competitions. I think if more teams drop out, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and co will be forced to recognise that without some control on spending – there won’t be a grid for them to compete against.

          However, I think a buget cap may be unnecessary if each team was receiving a larger proportion of the sport’s revenue. Although I don’t have reliable figures to hand, it’s generally accepted that it costs a certain amount to reach a base level of competiveness (say, within 0.5 seconds of the leaders) and then, to make up each tenth of the second to and beyond the leaders, the costs rise exponentially (Mark Webber says in this article that it costs $100m per tenth but I think he may be exaggerating!).

          At the moment, Marussia, Caterham and possibly Torro Rosso aren’t even funded to the extent where they can reach this base level. Give them a larger proportion of the sports revenue and they will.

          1. The “total loss” criterion in UEFA’s financial fair play rules isn’t really a stepping stone to equality, though – maybe it’s a stepping stone to equality for everyone except Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid who have far more revenues than anybody else, but that wasn’t the intention. The intention was to stem the run of bankruptcies and teams going into administration in European football over recent years.

            Ultimately if you want parity you have to provide negative incentives for performance (just as in American sports, where the teams with the worst records get the highest draft picks) and hope that teams ignore them.

            In F1, this would mean assigning TV money either equally between teams or in reverse constructors’ championship order. And if you can come up with a way to make Ferrari agree to that, I take my hat off to you.

          2. The intention was to stem the run of bankruptcies and teams going into administration in European football over recent years.

            which is something F1 lacks

      2. @andae23 – hopefully my response to Churaragi above will explain how I think dishing out more money to the teams will help make the sport more competitive but, on your other point about F1’s desire to cater to a wider audience, I agree that this may sometimes detract from spectacle (DRS for instance has definitely devalued overtaking) but I don’t think it does anything but help the sport’s revenues. More viewers equals more revenue for the teams (through increased broadcasting deals, merchandise sales, ticket sales etc.). Cut out CVC/Ecclestone and give more to the teams and you’ve removed the need for pay drivers.

    2. After a bit of Googling, I found this excellent article which breaks down the revenues and costs of Bernie’s F1 group. In total, 47.5% of F1’s income is paid to the teams. The remainder goes to the owners of the F1 teams (Bernie, CVC and other private equity firms).

      By way of comparison, according to this article, the 2010-13 Premier League TV deal amounted to around £1.17bn per year with £1.055bn being split amongst the 20 teams in the league (and those who are receiving “parachute payments” having been relegated). That means that only £120m is withheld from the teams and this amount isn’t simply profit for one man or a private equity group but actually is used to pay the League’s running costs and to make payments to a number of bodies such as Professional Footballers Association, the League Managers Association, the Conference, the Football Foundation, the Football League, the referees’ body and a number of charities. That means 90.2% of the total TV income is paid directly to the teams – twice what is paid to the F1 teams.

      1. *owners of the F1 group

      2. Some outdated data been used in that article, For one teams get more than 47% of the Tv revenue, They now get over 60%.

        Also consider that a sizeable portion of the cash FOM gets from the TV revenue goes back into the TV broadcast in the form of maintaining the TV equipment, Buying new equipment & investing in new broadcast technology.

        I gather they have some interesting new stuff for us this year, Including High-Def In-Car cameras.

    3. To be fair to Withmarsh @bpacman he argues much the same point as you do. That the teams have been wrong not to stick together and make better arrangements for themselves, which in turn would give the sport more stability.

  20. I believe the fundamental problem with this sport is the actual cost to participate, for the established teams they have the inherent competitiveness that is rewarded financially, yet for new teams it becomes a vicious financial circle and pay drivers are a way of increasing revenue. If this helps them survive and move up the grid and thus earn a greater reward I for one think this is a price worth paying.

    I just don’t see a way forward in restricting budgets on teams that the established top teams would themselves sanction. My biggest worry however is the cost involved to host a GP becomes so excessive that we are left with little or no historic tracks remaining and what remains are tracks that have little character.

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