'Financial crisis' threatens F1
HEADED FOR DTM RACING: Formula 1 driver Timo Glock leaves Marussia and will race with BMW in the DTM series.
LONDON, Jan 22 - Passion, engineering brilliance and sheer hard work
can only go so far and must be paid for. In the end, teams are always
chasing the sponsorship dollar even if they manage to keep their rivals
behind them on the track.
Glock was paid to drive at Marussia but
the team made clear in a statement that was a luxury they
could no longer afford when their survival was at stake in harsh
TOUGH ECONOMIC CLIMATE
Glock had become an anomaly on a
starting grid whose lower slots are increasingly being filled by drivers
bringing "budget" with them.
Team principal John Booth said: "The ongoing challenges facing the
industry mean that we have had to take steps to secure our long-term
"Tough economic conditions prevail and the commercial landscape is difficult for everyone, Formula 1 teams included."
one of three new teams who were encouraged into the sport in 2010
with the promise of a budget cap and favourable terms that swiftly
evaporated, have the smallest budget of any current outfit.
still translates into some R620-million a season, however, and by
finishing 11th overall behind Caterham in 2012 they missed out on
millions in prize money divided among the top 10 teams.
made no secret when hiring Britain's Max Chilton, a F1 rookie in 2013, that he would need backing to secure the drive and Glock's
exit will allow them to bring in much-needed cash for the second seat as
Marussia are not alone there, with vacancies outstanding
at Force India and Caterham as both teams assess a number of candidates
who can boast both an FIA super-licence and substantial support.
failure of Spanish-based HRT, who had Indian Narain Karthikeyan and
Chinese reserve Ma Qing Hua helping to pay the bills last year before
they folded, has shown how vulnerable some teams are in a sport whose
revenues were expected to exceed R17-billion in 2012.
that backdrop, with none of the three new teams (Marussia, Caterham,
HRT) scoring a point in three seasons and others above them also feeling
the squeeze, driver decisions have focused on more than just talent and
Glock said on Twitter in a message to Red Bull's
Mark Webber: "That's the way of F1 at the moment (I) hope it will
change again soon because like this it has nothing to do with sport."
Other leading drivers commiserated with Glock, a veteran of 91 race starts with three podiums for Toyota.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa said: "We know that many drivers know to arrive in Formula One they need to have sponsors, they need to have money,
especially in the small teams.
"And honestly this is not a great thing for Formula One and maybe it is part of the commercial side."
PAY AS YOU GO
The "pay driver" is not a new phenomenon, and indeed some of the greatest
names in F1 fell into that category when starting out.
triple champion Niki Lauda, now a key part of the Mercedes management
team, paid substantial sums to March for drives in Formula Two and F1 in the early 1970s.
By 1974 he was racing for Ferrari and being paid handsomely for his talents.
world champion Michael Schumacher made his debut for Jordan in 1991
after cash changed hands while Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, Mexican
Sergio Perez and Russian Vitaly Petrov have all been dubbed pay drivers.
is now a race winner for Williams, Perez has replaced Lewis Hamilton at
McLaren and Petrov's 11th place for Caterham in Brazil in November gave
his team 10th in the championship and was worth many millions.
DETRACTING FROM THE SPORT
Hill, the 1996 champion with Williams, is not alone in expressing
concern that money may now be talking too loudly in a sport that should
be an arena for the world's best drivers.
Hill said: "It wouldn't work in
football. If you wanted to play centre
forward for Man United, you still have to be pretty good. This
sport has always been complicated from that point of view and I don't
know what the solution is
will always be a need for more money when the stakes get higher because
people want to be more competitive. Everybody's a pay driver on the
rungs up the ladder to F1."