The Reuters global sports blog
Indian Narain Karthikeyan’s return to Formula One, along with Renault’s retention of Russian Vitaly Petrov and the imminent arrival of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Mexican Sergio Perez, has put the issue of the so-called ‘pay driver’ — a man whose place on the grid is rightly or wrongly considered as much down to the amount of sponsorship he brings as talent behind the wheel — firmly back in the spotlight.
There are those who bemoan the situation, lamenting the lack of opportunities for the talented but hard-up aspirant, but that is not a new phenomenon even if it was more muted in the era of manufacturer dominance.
In the early days of the championship, you had the well-heeled gentleman racer — flamboyant types like Thailand’s Prince Bira — who could afford to buy a Maserati or two and go racing.
“Do you think we are running on air? The money has to come from somewhere,” HRT team principal Colin Kolles, Karthikeyan’s boss, told Reuters last week when asked about the Indiank. “For more than 100 years if you want to race, you have to put money on the table.”
Jenson Button’s eye-catching visit to McLaren on Friday is of obvious benefit to both parties, whatever the reality behind the headlines.
If a deal is done, the new Formula One champion gets the bigger salary that Brawn are reluctant or unable to pay as well as a potentially winning car for next season.