Whitmarsh: Too many pay drivers in F1
Martin Whitmarsh has warned that there are too many pay drivers in Formula One at the moment and that drivers remaining in junior categories for long periods of time are clogging up the system.
A number of teams have employed drivers with financial backing behind them as budgets remain tight towards the back of the grid. Whitmarsh believes the current situation means there are drivers coming in to the sport who are not up to the job, while more talented but less well funded drivers miss out.
"I think, personally, it's sad to have so many pay drivers in Formula One," Whitmarsh said. "The numbers have crept up, and while I'm sure it's good and exciting for those that can afford it, you would hope that in the premier form of motorsport worldwide that you wouldn't have to have pay drivers and that means there are some good young, professional drivers who can't get in and aren't getting in.
"If you look at the churn of drivers it's very low. One reason is because teams are conservative and don't take risks [with their line-ups] and the risks that are taken materialize in instant revenue for the team but don't materialize in driver potential for the future. It's sad to say, but the reason that some of those guys are pay drivers, not all of them, but the reason that some are pay drivers is because they are actually and fundamentally not good enough to be in Formula One."
Whitmarsh felt that with so many pay drivers hanging around in lower formulae, one way of ensuring talent progressed would be to enforce a rule which means every team in a junior category must have a rookie.
"One of the sad things is that in those junior categories, because those teams are making a business, the good teams get second- or third-year, well-budgeted drivers. I think if you said, in lower formulas, that a driver can only stay for two years in a junior category and each team has to have a rookie then I think you'd cleanse the system there.
"I think it's difficult in Formula One for us to say to some the teams that you can't have pay drivers because sadly they have become an important constituent of the budget. In the junior categories, having drivers that are around for four or five years because they can afford to be there just clogs up the system. If the top teams had to have a rookie then I think they'd be a fight over the good rookies at the bottom and they'd get sucked in because those competitive teams need them and they'd get accelerated through." ESPN F1