An increasing trend for ‘pay drivers’ in formula one is casting a pall over the futures of many of the sport’s existing names.
Even Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in the sport’s history, is having to wait for Williams to evaluate the talent of the well-funded new GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado in Abu Dhabi later this month.
“I’m talking deeply with Williams and nobody else. My feeling is that I will be here next year,” he said confidently on Thursday.
His teammate Nico Hulkenberg is less confident.
“What can I say?” said the 23-year-old German, who stands to lose his seat after just a single season in F1.
“It is very hard and it’s very unfortunate and disappointing that formula one is in the situation again of pay drivers.”
Adrian Sutil, with $5m in backing from the German electronics brand Medion, was also thought a contender for the Williams seat but it is now expected he is staying with Force India.
Nick Heidfeld had hoped Sutil’s move might open up a rare vacancy in an F1 paddock still feeling the effect of a shortage of sponsors and the global financial crisis.
When asked about his situation regarding 2011, he answered on Thursday: “It’s about others, about politics and about money.”
Heidfeld agrees with Hulkenberg that pay-drivers are wielding more influence today than in the recent past.
“It’s massively worse than it was a few years ago — if I brought money, I would be easily in formula one (in 2011),” said the 33-year-old.
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