The pay driver debate needs to move on


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

  1. glenj (@glenj) said on 15th February 2013, 10:23

    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….

    • Metallion (@metallion) said on 15th February 2013, 15:47

      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.

  2. andae23 (@andae23) said on 15th February 2013, 10:27

    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.

  3. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 15th February 2013, 10:30

    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:

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th February 2013, 12:42


      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.

      • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 15th February 2013, 14:36

        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.

      • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 15th February 2013, 14:37

        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.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:21

          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

          • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 15th February 2013, 15:59

            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.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2013, 9:28

            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.

      • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 15th February 2013, 16:49

        @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.

  4. bpacman (@bpacman) said on 15th February 2013, 10:33

    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.

    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 15th February 2013, 10:44

      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.

      • Churaragi said on 15th February 2013, 11:43

        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).

        • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 15th February 2013, 13:38

          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.

          • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 15th February 2013, 14:44

            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.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:28

            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

      • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 15th February 2013, 13:43

        @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.

    • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 15th February 2013, 13:59

      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.

      • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 15th February 2013, 13:59

        *owners of the F1 group

      • GT_Racer said on 16th February 2013, 12:38

        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.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:25

      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.

  5. 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.

  6. Sam Andrew said on 15th February 2013, 10:50

    Your analogy with football is wrong, you would struggle to buy a seat at Mclaren or Ferrari, just like you would struggle to buy a place at Man U, but if you were a Championship player and offered a lower end Premier League team some money you could almost certinally buy your way in; these pay drivers aren’t incompetent.

    A team with more backing can buy better engineers and facilities; a driver with better backing can buy a better seat, I really see no difference.

    The driver is just part of the whole package, and the lower end teams are just putting together a package that will produce the best results; a pay driver may be a bit slower, but the extra cash will build a faster car.

    While F1 teams have different budgets, we can hardly complain about pay drivers

  7. GT_Racer said on 15th February 2013, 10:51

    I for one was actually quite happy when FOTA announced plans to form breakaway series in 2009.

    And do you know why that didn’t happen?
    Because for as much as they complain, The teams know that forming there own breakaway series would have never worked.

    The teams have had opportunities more than once to breakaway from F1 & they have got serious at least twice, In the end they always back down because they know breaking away would do more harm than good, Something the CART/IRL split in the US helped demonstrate.

    Perhaps just as importantly however, Setting up a new series & sorting out all the contracts/deals you need for a world championship requires a lot of money, The sort of money none of the teams are really willing to spend (Or really have).

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th February 2013, 13:52

      I too hoped that the teams would break away, the problem they faced is that Bernie did a sweetheart deal with his pal Max to secretly transfer the rights to F1 from the FIA to Bernie not FOTA who should have had the opportunity to acquire the name or block the deal.
      Once Bernie controlled the name he also controlled the income and contracts already in place, to break away the teams would have to set up contracts with the same people Bernie already had contracts with, it would have been very messy and if Bernie fought a scorched earth fight many of the smaller teams would not have survived a year without races, which is I believe the reason Bernie likes to have half the teams near bankruptcy.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th February 2013, 16:03

        Further thought, I wonder if there may have been parallels in the transfer from the FIA to the transfer to CVC, but of course Max would not threaten Bernie with the taxman like Gribowsky is alleged to have done, so we can rest assured it was above board.

  8. Veteran said on 15th February 2013, 11:06

    A few years ago we didn’t have Caterham, Marussia or HRT. To me it was a better world. Eliminate those teams from the grid and you won’t have many paydrivers. These are just subpar teams which the sport dont really need. To me HRT was like a GP2 car in F1 (it almost was). That is not good for the sport either. F1 is about having the elite. Why should this be restricted to drivers? You also need the elite teams. Not the ones like Marussia, Caterham or HRT… They should get their game together or just quit F1. Can’t make it? Too bad, you knew it was F1, it is not go-carts.

    • Churaragi said on 15th February 2013, 11:50

      So you think it was entirely their fault that they sucked and not at all related to how little money they have/had to get things going?

      Sorry your argument is a bad one, you also don’t consider that it is not just the last 3 teams that use/need pay drivers. Teams like Williams use them too. Is Williams now a subpar team we should just get rid off?

      If you think the solution is a progressively smaller grid, then well, that is just not a solution. We could just as well rename F1 to Ferrari vs McLaren vs Redbull championship and only have 6 cars on the grid, but that would just be a disaster.

      • Veteran said on 15th February 2013, 12:43

        You know F1 cost money right? If you don’t have the money, why try to compete? You know it is useless and you will be at the back of the grid. That was my point. Not that everyone should just go away. F1 should be the elite, for constructors and drivers, not only for drivers.
        Please tell me the added value teams like HRT, Marussai and Caterham have produced over the years?

    • Bruno (@brunes) said on 15th February 2013, 12:35

      Mate, those teams are trying to improve and trying to catch the others up.
      It is very simple, they have to start somewhere. It has only been what, 4 years since they joined the grid.
      RedBull, Mclaren, Lotus, Williams, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Brabham, Beneton and the list goes on. They all had to start somewhere and not many of them saw any success in their first 3 years of racing. Some, like Toyota, never saw success at all and I guess you wouldn’t want to get rid of Toyota when they were still racing.

      Don’t think shallow Just look at RedBull. How long did it take them to catch everyone up? Or do you think RedBull started in 2009?
      Remember that everything takes time. (and money in this case)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th February 2013, 12:44

      Get rid of Caterham and Marussia and we’d have an 18-car grid. A 22-car grid is poor but 18 would be absolutely pathetic.

      • BarnstableD (@barnstabled) said on 15th February 2013, 13:04

        Agreed. But I do think it’s sad that F1 should have to fill out the grid with sub-par teams.

        MotoGP introduced CRT teams – a true two-tier championship – and for me it has almost destroyed the sport. Now when I watch it it is like watching four or so good bikes, a few more decent bikes and then loads of pointless bikes from another category to make the race look less pathetic.

        I really hope F1 doesn’t end up like this by filling the grids with so-so teams! F1 needs to find a way to appeal to the Audis, Hondas and BMWs of the world.

      • Veteran said on 15th February 2013, 13:08

        Please elaborate? I would prefer a 18 car grid. The last 3 (now 2) just have no added value.
        I would prefer a 22 or even 24 car grid if the back end teams would have any future. Right now, they don’t even have KERS… That will be fun for 2014. Just put them out of their misery.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th February 2013, 13:43

          The last 3 (now 2) just have no added value.

          I don’t agree – Caterham and Marussia were closely matched last year, the contest between them swung back and forth and was decided at the last race. It was definitely worth following.

          Even HRT had their role to play in the championship – if it hadn’t been for Narain Karthikeyan the drivers’ championship would have been decided one race earlier. They may not have been a match for the other teams most of the time but they competed and their presence added to the sport, if only in a small way.

          Right now, they don’t even have KERS

          Yes they do. Both of them.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th February 2013, 14:05

            Keith , I agree, I think a large part of the problem of costs is down to Bernie and the FIA, they talk cost containment but introduce hugely expensive rules like re-fuelling, multiple tyres etc that require a huge pit-crew to pay, transport and accommodate. Would Minardi have survived its start-up years under the current regime?

          • Veteran said on 15th February 2013, 14:38

            Just like I said, a 2 tier F1 championship. It was a battle outside the normal league of competion. And honestly, did anybody really care? It was fun to watch, but it was not F1.
            They only have KERS this upcoming season. The season hasn’t started yet.
            Like you confirmed they were only good for ruining others people race and driving in the way of people in the tier 1 championship battle.
            I respect your opinion, but I don’t know why you so desperately defend them. The just have no added value, and they will never ever get a podium, let alone a win. Even when there were 2 other teams instead of 9 other, this would be the case. The are just too bad, too low on funds and talent. They do not belong in F1 where you need to have the elite and the best.

          • Bruno (@brunes) said on 17th February 2013, 7:29

            having the best, high funds and talent does not necessarily mean success. Just look at Toyota’s stint.
            When you say @Veteran “It was fun to watch, but it was not F1.
            They only have KERS this upcoming season”
            So what is the definition of Formula 1?
            And yes, they finally got KERS. And that is what this debate is all about. They are slowly making a step forward.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:34

          These rows have no added value? I remember the monaco 2010 race where the first 3rd of the race was interesting for Alonso fighting through the backmarkers.

          And as Keith mentions, there have been several times where on track battles as well as a season long battle between these teams have made for a very interesting part of the racing and backstory.

        • Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 15th February 2013, 15:49

          @Veteran If I’m not mistaken back in 2010 the three new teams were promised big budget cuts by the big teams. That hasn’t happened, infact Red Bull spent more then double their budget in 2012 then they did in 2010 on car development.

          And Caterham had KERS starting from 2012 so that is no argument. The reason why Marussia hasn’t had the chance yet to use KERS is because when they still designed their cars fully with CFD their technical director didn’t believe KERS was worth it.

          Actually what KERS is Marussia using? Did they manufacture one themselves or did they buy it of Williams who still used Cosworth engines in 2011 when KERS was reintroduced?

  9. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 15th February 2013, 11:18

    In professional sport the viewing public expect the competitors to be the best in their discipline.

    That is a terrific point!
    And is partly why I disagree with pay drivers. The other reason I disagree with the notion of paying for a position on a team is that it’s just not sporting. The fact that a less experienced and (most probably) less talented driver has a higher chance of getting a seat, rather than a more experience driver, just because they want more money is not right.

    Drivers like Kovalainen, Glock, and Alguersuari deserve to be on the grid based in merit and talent.

    But at the same time, younger drivers also need the chance to prove themselves.

    I agree that young drivers deserve a chance, but they need to get there on talent, not money.

  10. It’s about what is the best car + driver package. The driver is just one component of the package, value for money may mean that you’ll be quicker with a pay driver than with one or both of your drivers drawing large salaries.

  11. sw280 (@sw280) said on 15th February 2013, 11:55

    KOV, GLO, KOB, PET. All have had podiums in F1 and don’t have drives, but then KOB, PIC had unspectacular junior careers and seem to have proved themselves in F1. Then you have PER who was a pay driver but with talent. Then there is GRO and MAL who have had success in junior careers but it took them years, rather then HAM and HUL who won in GP2 in their rookie years. Its very difficult to decide who is “worthy” for F1.

  12. Paying participants are just a fact of life for a so-called “sport” that’s actually a show.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like F1, I find it entertaining, and have been watching it for all my life.

    But it’s such an obviously elitist non-sport that to expect the “22 best drivers in the world” to compete in F1 is like expecting the world’s best marathon runners to turn up in a Moon Marathon for Space Tourists.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th February 2013, 12:45


      • A real sport is accessible.

        On a basic level: I can go running whenever I want to, or play football with friends.

        On an advanced level: if I can run a certain distance faster than anybody, there is no way I will be left on the sidelines of the sport; and even if I’m José Nobody Gumirez, 16-year-old village boy, but I can do magic with a football, I have a realistic chance of actually one day playing for a big team.

        Even with sports like golf, polo, sailing, or lower categories of motorsport, I have a plausible chance of competing if I am reasonably well-off or a fanatic spending all his money on his hobby.

        Formula 1, this so-called sport, is inaccessible for 99,9999999% of the world’s population from the word go, regardless of talent or fanaticism.

        That’s why I made a comparison with a fictional moon marathon that’s available only for billionaire space tourists.

        Sure enough, some of those billionaires may actually be great marathon runners. But will you ever have a situation when all the best marathon runners are also billionaires, so they are able to take part in it?

        A real sport takes itself seriously.

        You’ll find no sport where rules are so egregiously inconsistent, their application is as murky, as in F1. And where even the will or interest to change this fact is so sorely lacking.

        In no real sport are rules modified mid-season simply to prevent some participant from running away with the title.

        I can’t think of any sport where the referee has access to certain footage of a situation but an average viewer does not; or where a decision is sometimes explained, sometimes not, depending on … er, depending on what, exactly?

        Outstanding physical/mental performances do not necessarily indicate a sport

        A Formula 1 driver is a great athlete. But then, a world-class circus performer is also a great athlete. A special commando is probably also a great athlete.

        Still, a circus show is not a sport. A mission in Afghanistan is not a sport.

        F1 is not a sport, either, but it can be marketed and sold better in the disguise of one.

        Ultimately, few people will care much about a “show” (marketed as such) in the long run; while a “sport” produces armies of long-term fanatics who gather statistics, debate arcane details etc. and in the process, perpetuate the interest in that “sport”.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 15th February 2013, 15:18

          On a basic level: I can go running whenever I want to, or play football with friends.

          Formula 1, this so-called sport, is inaccessible for 99,9999999% of the world’s population from the word go, regardless of talent or fanaticism.

          Your analogies just don’t work. F1 is only one division of MOTORSPORT.

          F1 is inaccessible, but MOTORSPORT is not. You can go karting for fun, for example. Similar to how you can play football easily, but you’re not exactly going to be in one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting lineups are you?

          • F1 is only one division of MOTORSPORT.

            Just like a moon marathon would be only one “division” of running, yet it would not feel like an actual sport at all.

            There is a point where something that does have its roots in a sport becomes so rarefied it does not qualify as a sport itself.

            Karting is a sport in that it is accessible for almost everyone, and therefore the cream probably comes to the top. Not so with F1.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 16th February 2013, 0:40


            So the cream doesn’t rise to the top in F1 through their results? Very few sports are accessible at their top level. Karting and F1 are under the umbrella of motorsports, with karting near the bottom rung (and naturally more accessible), and F1 at the top rung (which will of course be far less accessible).

            As for your moon example, if there was an actual demand for it, then someone may choose to organise this competition, and it would qualify under a sport under the word’s official definition.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:45

          @mj4 I really think this comparison does not work:

          A Formula 1 driver is a great athlete. But then, a world-class circus performer is also a great athlete. A special commando is probably also a great athlete.

          Still, a circus show is not a sport. A mission in Afghanistan is not a sport.

          F1 is not a sport, either, but it can be marketed and sold better in the disguise of one.

          That is because you have to look at the background and reasons for being there. If said expedition in Afghanistan would not be about fighting out a war of power over an area (or to find something buried in the wilderness) it might become a sport as well (to some survival would be that sport – something that already exists). The difference IS the fact that it has a different goal.
          The same goes for the circus artist. His act is not about competing with other artists for the best performance, but doing a great performance to entertain a public. But its not far away from gymnastics disciplines practiced at the olympics if you would put several of them and rate their performance and give rewards for the best one.

          • You are perfectly right. I made a too big leap here by anticipating the “F1 is a sport because look how fit they must be” argument.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th February 2013, 13:47

        You and I can’t go and play in the Premier League tomorrow. But we can kick a ball around in the park.

        You and I can’t go drive F1 cars in Australia next month either. But we can go kart racing.

        I don’t agree with your second point and I’m not sure about the third one but I don’t think either are relevant to the subject of pay drivers.

        • Veteran said on 15th February 2013, 15:24

          It’s the same ball, not the same vehicle…

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:38

            but is it the same sailing boat, polo horse or even bob sleigh? They are equally not comparable because the absolute top level is just so narrow and costly.

          • Veteran said on 15th February 2013, 15:48

            The difference between a good horse and a very good horse is not the same as the difference between a GP2/Formula3 car and a F1 car…. It is a total difference. A horse is still a horse. A bobsleigh is still a bob sleigh, a sailing boat is still a sailing boat. You cannot compare those to F1…. It is just impossible.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2013, 9:36

            Veteran, you can go racing horeses with a horse costing about 5-8000 EUR. To win at world level you will have to put down more something close to a million or up to 5 Million.
            If you look at a sailing boat you can get them for 500 EUR for a basic one where you can sail if you want (or rent something for 30-40 a day), but if you want to do something like the Americas Cup, you will be spending F1 nearing budgets.
            An Olympic rower has about half a million investment for his equipment (just paddles come at about 400 EUR per piece). I am pretty sure that if you would seriously look at money spent by the top bobsleigh nations lately you would see budgets for windtunnels, CFD, studies of movement, etc. also skyrocket just like F1 did years back.

        • I don’t agree with your second point

          …which is, F1 as a sport does not take itself seriously.

          Well, if you really are of the opinion that F1 rules are applied and enforced, decisions are communicated in a way a proper sport applies and enforces its rules, and communicates its decisions, then something just died inside me…

          I don’t think either are relevant to the subject of pay drivers

          Obviously, not directly relevant, only through the assertion that it not being a proper sport, one should not expect proper talent-based selection to work.

    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 15th February 2013, 13:06

      Formula 1 is a bt of an elitist sport, but no more (or even less) than for instance tennis or golf. Even back in the 1950s there was this humble, school drop-out car mechanic who was winning races in Formula 1 on raw talent, not on daddy’s money.

  13. I remember a comment made by a F1 insider a few years back that the simplest way to save money would be to limit the wingspan of the corporate jests. Would save money to pay drivers.

  14. Bruno (@brunes) said on 15th February 2013, 12:41

    The argument that F1 is not a show, but a sport needs to stop. Sports have been a shows for a long time.
    Look at The Colosseum.
    If F1 is a sport, then it is a show and it needs to attract people.

    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 15th February 2013, 13:02

      @brunes I have been using the argument “F1 is not a show” frequently. You say the sport has become a show because it ‘needs’ to attract people, but does a sport ‘need’ to attract people per se? Myself and with me many fans love to simply watch the cars go through corners as fast as possible, combined with the most decibels as possible – Formula 1 doesn’t need to be a show to be interesting. That’s partially why I think F1 is fundamentally flawed: the focus lies on how to make the sport appealing to as many people as possible, instead of looking at how to improve the quality of racing and appeal to people that love the racing aspect, not the show aspect.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th February 2013, 15:51

        I would say a sport needs to generate money (by getting attention) the moment you start needing to put in money to be more competitive.
        Taking your own car out for a spin on a track is not much more expensive as renting a court and go tennis playing, renting the pool to have a competitive swim with friends, or go on the golf course (or rent a couple of sailing boats for a day to race them). Therefore it does not need paying viewers/fans or whatever.
        But when you want to invest in better methods of swimming, better equipment, go to more interesting places to play golf or race etc., then you quickly will learn that you need to make a show of it if you don’t want to end up paying for all of that yourself.

        • andae23 (@andae23) said on 15th February 2013, 16:34

          But when you want to invest in better methods of swimming, better equipment, go to more interesting places to play golf or race etc.

          @bascb But do we need that? Does F1 need to race in the Middle East or Asia, do teams need ridiculously large motorhomes? Well, at the moment the answer is ‘yes’, but when the costs would go down, then the answer would be ‘no’. That’s why I’d say that F1 needs to change its way of thinking.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 16th February 2013, 6:43

            The prime question, I guess @andae23

            But do we need that?

            The answer should probably be no (ultimately we don’t need competitive sports).
            But in any place where we have competitive sports, doesn’t every participant look for ways to go faster, further, higher? The moment you want that, you start looking for means to do that, and then you start needing more and more money to make it happen too.
            Its impossible to stop that until all participants would agree on some kind of limit either on the amount they are allowed to spend really (or, to a lesser degree, what they are allowed to spend it on).

          • Bruno (@brunes) said on 17th February 2013, 0:57

            When you say “do teams need ridiculously large motorhomes?” . The culture of showing off, and having huuuge parties and media events began when F1 wasn’t a “show” (according to you).

            Since Lotus got sponsorship in their car back in the days, team have been trying to put on a show to attract more money.
            And if you look at F1’s history. It was never an amateur championship that grew up. It has always had an enormous amount of investment from manufacturers, drivers and etc. How many garagist teams were there in the first 5 years of F1? The manufacturers at the time created a big show by competing with each other.
            It is a simple equation. The more people you attract, the more money you get.
            With no public money, F1 would never have left the UK. It only did because people were willing to pay to watch the show in other countries.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th February 2013, 22:32

            I think your comment is rather pointed as a reaction to what @andae23 wrote @brunes

  15. BarnstableD (@barnstabled) said on 15th February 2013, 12:55

    Great article. Have to agree with many of the points made and the overall conclusion: F1 is supposed to be about the best teams and best drivers in motor sport.

    I think the underlying problem is that there can be much more performance gains in spending a few million on car development than using a slightly ‘better’, non-pay driver who won’t provide that extra money.

    Most of the pay-drivers entering F1 are coming from GP2 or similar. By this standard, all the pay-drivers will be of a good enough standard to at least lap an F1 at good pace. Teams face the choice that this driver may be 0.2 sec off Alonso’s pace (in the same machinery), but bring in money to develop the car’s pace by 0.3 sec. And let’s not forget that performance gain affects two cars – a total 0.6 sec gain for example.

    As F1 is heavily sponsor driven, I can’t imagine a plausible way to limit these drivers from making their way to the grid at the moment. You cannot simply ban driver sponsorship for example as sponsors will join teams based on their drivers anyway (Telmex/Sauber/Mexican drivers e.g.).

    I believe that if a budget cap came into place that this could lessen the need to bring in less quality and more money and performance gains may sway back towards drivers’ pace. But this enters a whole new discussion…

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