End of 2007 season meant also the end of pay drivers in Formula 1. The last of them disappeared with Spyker team and so we haven’t seen any of them on the 2008 Formula 1 grid. This might also be one of the reasons why no driver lost his seat this year (except of course Super Aguri guys).
But if we are to believe Sebastien Bourdais (interview for GPUpdate.net), the pay driver institution is about to return.
“If it was just a team principal decision we would have already signed for next season. It is purely a financial issue unfortunately. Obviously it doesn’t really matter what they want if you don’t have the money. It is now a pretty simple, but nasty game. If you find the money you will be all right but if you don’t they put you on hold. They can’t make a decision until they have all the cards in their hands and I’m just playing the waiting game. I never expected it would be like this. This was not part of the deal. When I signed up the team looked to have enough funds but then…(pauses)… I don’t think I can comment too much about it really but mister Mateschitz is just doing what he said he was going to do. He will invest less and it will probably get worse next year. The team is unable to find good sponsors and when that is the case they just have to look for well funded drivers.”
Surprised ? Not really. Although Dietrich Mateschitz says he never put the Toro Rosso up for sale it must be clear to anyone that he can’t afford to support 2 Formula 1 teams, each building their own chassis. The team would either need a strong cash rich partner, generous title sponsor or a driver that could bring either cash or some sort of other benefit for the team or its current backers.
Cash rich partners are in short supply in the current economic climate and so may be the generous sponsors. So the only other avenue to cash are the right drivers. Although some media connected also Rubens Barrichello with the Toro Rosso seat it does look like the serious candidates left for the 2009 Toro Rosso drive are Sato, Buemi, Bourdais and Senna (who will also test with Toro Rosso this winter). Which one of them could pay his way to 2009 Formula 1 racing ?
This is what Takuma Sato had to say on the topic of buying the Toro Rosso seat:
I really don’t have cash. But of course I’d be very happy to bring a personal sponsor because if you add to the team’s budget it will make the team stronger. But not so much to buy yourself the seat, that’s obviously the second story. Of course we’re negotiating all the possibilities to have personal sponsors, but I really don’t know.
I’m here to drive, and from a driver’s point of view just to do the best in the cockpit. In terms of the engineering, I’m very happy to work (with Toro Rosso). The sponsor talk, I let my manager do. Hopefully the team will make a decision towards me, that’s only my point of view, but I cannot really prepare a budget.
Hopefully, maybe with this difficult economy, some good personal sponsors will support us and that will be an extra bonus for me.
By the way, how is talk like this helping Bourdais’ cause ?
Photo: Red Bull/GEPA