- Helping you drive happy

Pay to play? That's absurd!

Pay to play? That's absurd!

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On February 15th, our European colleague, Emmanuel Rolland wrote a blog about the necessity for today's aspiring race car drivers to bring lots of cash to the table.

It's nothing new, actually. In the earliest forms of auto racing (dating back about a century ago) most race car drivers were wealthy people, such as princes and barons.

Then, in the glorious ’70s, only skills mattered. The best drivers could often make a career with the full support of oil companies, which were heavily involved in the sport.

Unfortunately, that's no longer the case nowadays. While Formula 1 is supposed to pit the world's top drivers against each other, only a gifted few (such as Vettel, Alonso, and Hamilton) actually make money. The others have to spit it out to retain their spot.

Consider Brazilian driver Luis Razzia, whose main sponsor failed to complete the second planned payment that would have allowed him to race for Marussia. A French rival, Jules Bianchi, immediately replaced Razzia.

Modern-day F1 is a merciless shark tank fuelled by money, not talent.

Small, cash-strapped teams demand ridiculous sums just for tryouts. Rumour has it that one of them asked $350,000 from young drivers to participate in a single day of test laps in Abu Dhabi.

This plague affects other racing series, mind you. Some NASCAR and IndyCar teams put their cars up for bid throughout the season, switching from one driver to another to earn the most dollars. That's why you see a different name behind the wheel of certain cars from one race to the next.

As I once illustrated in a blog titled “Show me the money!", imagine a rookie hockey (or baseball or football) player having a great training camp and then being told: ''Look, you're very talented, and we really like you. Just come back with $2 million (or euros), and you'll be hired!''

That's how absurd auto racing is today. With the global economy still idling, and promoters opting to invest their precious money elsewhere, the sport has become excessively expensive for just about everyone.

I believe that the most pressing issue is to address is significantly cutting operation costs at all levels of racing, from karting to F1. When F1, IndyCar and NASCAR teams finally trim their budget, they'll once again hire the best available drivers rather than the wealthiest ones.

Marussia F1
Photo: Marussia F1 Team