Thursday, 11 january 2018, 09:00
Formula One driver manager and son of FIA president Jean Todt, Nicolas Todt has insisted that access to F1 'must be on merit' for potential drivers, following news this week that Sergey Sirotkin has been awarded the final Williams seat ahead of Robert Kubica allegedly for financial reasons.
Kubica has been working hard to try and miraculously come back from losing part of his forearm in a rally accident a few years ago, and has been testing with Williams over the past few months to try and win their second seat for the 2018 campaign. However, Sirotkin was confirmed for the seat this week and some sections of people within the sport think it is only due to the financial backing the Russian receives which is why he was chosen ahead of Kubica.
Todt thinks that money alone is not enough of a reason to choose a driver, though.
"Having financial support helps, but the super license system set up by the FIA prevents drivers who are not at the necessary level from making it," said Todt, who manages Felipe Massa and Charles Leclerc among others.
"You can have millions to spend, but you still have to do significant performances to reach the required (license) points. Despite the complicated economic reality facing several teams, I think the level in F1 has never been as good," he told Auto Hebdo.
"Having said that, F1 must be careful not to convey the image of a paid sport. The effect would be a deterrent for everyone, including families who would be discouraged from starting karting from the beginning. Access to F1 must continue to be mainly on merit."
Sauber boss Frederic Vasseur agrees with Todt, and cited Lance Stroll as an example of a driver who also has huge money behind him, but has the talent to back it up.
"In my view, all of the most promising drivers came into F1 in the past two or three years. Ocon, Gasley, Vandoorne, Leclerc, and even Norris and (George) Russell, who will probably make their debut as well. It was not always like this.
"We now have a fairly simple mechanism for building a career. If you are competitive and you succeed at the junior level, you have a chance to get into the youth programme of a big team. Previously, there was a big gap in this plan and many young drivers were trapped because there were no places for them," Vasseur added.
"That has always been the case. However, Stroll or [Marcus] Ericsson came to formula one not be chance -- they still succeeded in the junior series. Perhaps without money they would not have got the chance to get into formula one, but they did achieve the necessary results to do so."