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Revhead Ramblings: Why Does Talent Play Second-Fiddle to Money in Motorsport?

I’d love to be a professional footballer. The money, the fame and my name in the history books. I can’t however wander down to Crewe and expect a place in the starting 11.

If, however, I fancied getting behind the wheel of an F3 car, besides the relevant racing license, all I’d need is a plump bank account filled with money. Beyond not endangering myself or others I could buy a place in a team ahead of a driver who is far, far more deserving of a place on the starting grid.

Pay to Drive

If you look at F1, pay drivers aren’t a new thing. Look at Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin at Williams. Both had billionaire parents who pooled £65 million into the British manufacturer last year. Being a pay driver doesn’t mean a lack of talent, but Stroll did manage to skip Formula 2 on his progression to the top. Williams said he’d ‘surprise a lot of people this year’, he ended up with just six points from 21 races in 2018…

You Can’t Blame the Teams

Motorsport doesn’t survive on just talent. Race teams don’t live off the revenue from a stadium of fans; they get by on money from drivers. A quick driver can bring a racing car on by a couple of tenths. One who arrives with £10m can provide engineers who design far faster cars. So, who can blame them for picking money over talent?

Working Class Heroes

Lewis Hamilton managed to work his way up through the ranks without any investors or rich parents. Instead his Dad worked four jobs to take him around the country to compete. A lack of governance in the lower tiers of the sport ultimately mean only wealthy kids will come through. If they can afford to have a new chassis and engine every race, what chance do people have who use the same parts throughout a season?

There are 20 people in the world who get to be a part of that F1 grid every season, so the chances of reaching those dizzying heights are minute anyway. But to even get a second look from one of these teams, you have to win a number of big events at a junior level; these don’t come cheap. Will we see another working class hero like Lewis Hamilton? Unless something changes, it’s highly unlikely.

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