Daily Archives: March 1, 2013

Bizarre driver market reveals F1’s growing struggle

The ousting of Luiz Razia at Marussia came as a surprise to me, as I had distanced myself from the mostly baseless rumours going round the paddock. However, it still wasn’t a total shock, as the strange driver market we have seen this year has shown that Formula 1 has a huge problem with its finances.

In the past, it would be unheard of to see a competent midfield team – Force India – take until February to announce their driver line-up, in the middle of testing season no less. But that’s exactly what they did, and the decision was made with money in mind. Granted, Sutil’s a good driver on merit, but he was clearly bringing more money to the table than Jules Bianchi.

HRT have folded, with even the prospect of two pay drivers failing to hold up their sinking ship. Sauber have dropped fan favourite Kamui Kobayashi in favour of sponsor-laden Esteban Gutierrez, who surely can’t contribute to the team as well as Kamui had done.

All of this makes it abundantly clear: the majority of F1’s teams are struggling financially. Only the “Big 5” appear to be comfortable, in particular Mercedes, who have been offering “telephone number salaries” in order to steal talented engineers from other leading teams.

I’m no expert on Formula 1’s complex financial workings, but even I can tell something’s badly wrong when half the grid are turning to pay drivers to keep afloat. As well as making F1 look bad in the press, it’s also a warning that the sport may fail to bring forward some of tomorrow’s best talent, if so many teams are focusing on survival only.

There are fixes, of course, but the vast majority of them stem from Bernie Ecclestone, who will of course be unwilling to budge an inch when it comes to finance. The 82-year-old built his fortune on tough negotiations and maximising revenues, and he isn’t going to stop now just because one driver got replaced over another.

But where does it stop? At what point will Ecclestone realise that the sport and its lower-tiered teams are being very slowly drained of its financial future? I fear that Formula 1 is heading towards a pivotal point in its future, where the needs of the many will go up against the wants of the few. Which way it’ll go is of course anyone’s guess, of course.

Bianchi ousts Razia at Marussia for 2013

In a surprise move, it has been announced that Luiz Razia has already been dropped by the Marussia team for the 2013 season, despite not having even turned a wheel in the new car.

It appears as if one of Razia’s sponsors failed to come through on a payment to the Marussia team, and after over a week of hushed rumours around the paddock, Luiz has been ousted before the season has even begun. The young Brazilian had completed 23 days on his contract before today.

He has been replaced by Jules Bianchi, who only yesterday had lost out to Adrian Sutil on the Force India second driver seat. Bianchi comes with Ferrari backing, meaning that Marussia are in a good position to receive Ferrari engines for the 2014 season, if Cosworth do not renew their contract.

Despite the shock move, Razia was adamant that he deserved his spot in the team, and valiantly vowed to fight his way back into F1:

"I'm in a kind of shock, because you expect to be in F1, you are there, announced, 
testing, and then you are out - and not because of a driver fault. I did everything 
right in what I could do, but it was really just a circumstantial thing that happened, 
and that was it.

But I still am here. My career is still shining and I can overcome this difficult 
situation. It is just something that has happened to me. Sometimes life does this 
to you.

My main goal is to be in F1, so all my effort is there. I am now without any grounds, 
but I will go with my family, and we will be sad for a while, but I will get back to 
the category."