I’ve been taking some heat since I wrote a newspaper column a few weeks ago in which I said professional auto racing is the most dysfunctional sport in the world because most of the drivers pay in order to drive the cars.
They do this one of two ways, I said. They either bring money to a team directly, or else they bring a sponsor to pay the bills.
After suggesting this would never happen in any other pro sport (can you imagine Vernon Wells paying the Blue Jays $20 million so he could play centre field?), I said: “How nuts is that?”
People wrote me directly or used the commenting tool on the article to suggest that I am the one who’s nuts.
Most of them said I don’t know what I’m talking about because all of the F1 drivers and most of the Indy car drivers are paid. I think they conceded that everyone pays at the minor-league professional level but it was my statement about the majors that got them upset.
I hate to break the bad news — again — but (as I said quite clearly in that column) with the exception of the half-dozen or so top teams in both F1 and IndyCar, all others are employing pay drivers in one form or another (see above).
Robert Wickens, the only Canadian with a superlicence (which means he could step into an F1 car tomorrow) and who has finished second in two top European development series the last two years (Formula 2 and GP3), is in Canada right now, beating the bush for money because there are F1 teams interested in his services - but only at a price.
If he comes up with the money, he'll be on the grid next season.
Two Mexican drivers will be in Sauber cars next season — one as a regular driver and the other in a testing role — because the Mexican communications company Telmex has signed on as sponsor.
Bruno Senna is talking to Lotus about a ride for next season, with any deal contingent upon the agreement of Senna's sponsors.
Today, there was this little nugget flowing around on some of the international F1 sites:
Mikhail Aleshin is a contender to make his F1 debut next years with Force India, according to Finalnd’s Turun Sanomat.
His father and manager Peter has revealed he is in talks with Vijkay Mallya’s Silverstone-based team as well as Lotus and Virgin about 2011.
The 23-year-old, who would be the second Russian in F1 after countryman Vitaly Petrov (Ed. Note – a pay driver at Renault), recently secured the Renault World Series title and a test with the Renault team in Abu Dhabi later this month.
But he told the Sovetsky Sport newspaper that he does not have the full 10-to-15 million Euros in sponsorship that he needs to buy a seat in 2011.
(Gee. There it is again, in black a white: buy a seat.)
“Now it’s the sponsor’s turn to decide,” said Aleshin, who is already backed by state-owned Gazprom and the tire company Cordiant.
And while there are, indeed, paid drivers in IndyCar, some of them had trouble getting their paycheques this year. One in particular had to threaten a lawsuit. The possibility of negative publicity finally forced his team to cough up the cash and they have since parted company.
So, how nuts is that?
P.S. Formula Atlantic and Indy Lights veteran James Hinchcliffe of Oakville has been told by several IndyCar teams that they have a seat reserved for him in 2011.
When he reports for duty, guess what he has to have with him, in addition to his talent?