sport

Whitmarsh laments F1 numbers

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has lamented the increasing number of pay drivers in Formula One.

It has become a sad indictment of F1, notably towards the rear of the grid, that providing a driver possesses a modicum of talent, but can bring with him money-laden sponsors, then he is in with a chance of acquiring a seat.

It is partly why Caterham were forced to part company with the highly-experienced Heikki Kovalainen ahead of the new season, bringing in Dutchman Giedo van der Garde.

At Marussia, another experienced driver in Timo Glock was released, with the Banbury-based marque signing Brazilian Luiz Razia

Whitmarsh knows it is fast becoming the norm as teams struggle to cope with the growing financial demands of competing in F1.

"For me, personally I think it's sad there are so many pay drivers in Formula One. The numbers have crept up," said Whitmarsh.

"I'm sure it's good and exciting for those that can afford it, but you would hope in the premier form of motor racing worldwide, you would not have pay drivers.

"It means there are some good, young, professional drivers that can't get in, and aren't getting in. You look at the churn of drivers now, and it's very low.

"Teams get conservative and don't take risks, and then the risks that are taken materialise in an instant revenue to the team, but don't materialise in developing the driver potential of the future.

"Sad to say, the reasons some of those guys are pay drivers, is that actually and fundamentally, they are not good enough to be in Formula One.

"But it's difficult in Formula One for us to say to some of these teams 'you can't have pay drivers'.

"Sadly, they have become an important constituent of their budget, so I wouldn't want to condemn them."

Whitmarsh highlights the fact that part of the reason behind pay drivers is due to the lack of funds coming into the teams from the sport's coffers.

Despite the vast sums of money generated by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone from a variety of revenue streams, the teams have long failed to be given what they see as a more reasonable slice of the pie.

The money, instead, lines the pockets of owners CVC Capital Partners, which according to Whitmarsh is due to the failure of the teams to collectively stand up to Ecclestone and fight for a more significant share.

Whitmarsh added: "Bernie has done a fantastic job for the owners.

"We can criticise Bernie, but he's doing his job better than we are doing it, and he is keeping the money. On behalf of his employers, that money whistles out of our sport.

"As you can imagine, that's deeply frustrating for some of us in the sport, but that's exactly what Bernie should be trying to do.

"If the teams aren't cohesive enough to work together to secure a larger share of that, then they have to blame themselves.

"I've tried quite hard in that area, but clearly not been as successful as I would like to have been, but then Bernie is pretty good at moving the pieces around the board."