As the racing season closes the Formula One chasm opens, ready to collect those considered as not possessing the talent or money to remain racing at the pinnacle of Motorsport. So who will be successful in their scramble to hold on and who will fall to the depths of life outside Formula One?
One of the first to plunge was the HRT team whose losses have resulted in them facing an uncertain future hoping for a bail out from a possible new owner. Having been one of the first drivers to seal a deal on a drive for 2013, Pedro De La Rosa now finds himself unemployed, along with Narain Kartikeyan and all other employees from the Hispanic team. Following the race in Sao Paulo last weekend, which proved to be one of their more successful with both drivers finishing, the El Mundo newspaper reported that mechanics from the stricken team caused a drunken altercation when returning to the factory to procure compensation for their redundancies.
Kamui Kobayashi was next to begin the descent as Sauber announced that Mexican Esteban Gutierrez would be promoted from his position as reserve driver to a race seat partnering Nico Hulkenberg in 2013. Desperate to hold onto life in Formula One, the Japanese driver has launched an internet campaign to raise funds to help secure a drive at another team, a move that propels him into the realm of being a ‘pay driver’. In contrast, Heikki Kovalainen, whose seat at Caterham is in question due to the fact that he will require a salary for the 2013 season. The Finn said,
I’d rather be out of Formula One than be paying to drive. It’s just not me. Okay, if just one big sponsor were to come in and back me that’s all right but I wouldn’t want to go to all sorts of places trying to get money. I’ve told my management that I just don’t want to go out and find money.
Heikki’s attitude is refreshing when, although not a new concept, paying for a drive is becoming the norm in Formula One and unless you are being signed to one of the top four teams you need to be able to produce the capital in order to be given the slightest chance of a race seat. Even Sergio Perez, now a McLaren driver, comes with backing from Telmex, which surely held some weight in their decision to hire him. The most notorious ‘pay driver’ in current times, Pastor Maldonado, will be joined at Williams by Valtteri Bottas next season meaning Bruno Senna also finds himself taking the dive out of the sport. There is still an available seat at Force India which will more than likely be handed to the highest bidder.
Almost as integral as the fight for the Driver’s Championship in Brazil, was the race to tenth position in the Constructors Championship between Marussia and Caterham. At Interlagos, Marussia driver Timo Glock was running seventh when he was hit by the Toro Rosso of John Eric Vergne causing an end to his race and the teams chances of acquiring the position needed. Tenth place is worth millions and in the money orientated world of Formula One this could prove to be the difference between catapulting the chasm and plummeting to its depths.
Talent in Formula One seems to lie with those who have the capabilities to secure monetary backing to go racing. For those not as adept as that, the depths of the chasm awaits.