Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has defended Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi from criticism that they are undeserving of their place in Formula 1 because their fathers have funded their way into the sport.
The duo are likely to be funded by a third 'pay driver' next season as Nikita Mazepin is poised to join Haas, seemingly flying in the face of past comments from many observers that drivers should be in F1 on merit rather than because they have a wealthy father.
Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll, Michael Latifi and Dmitry Mazepin are extremely wealthy businessmen in their own right, and have naturally played a pivotal role in the careers of their sons.
Wolff, however, feels the younger Stroll, Latifi and Mazepin have all had to prove themselves anyway en route to getting into F1.
"Let's look at Lance, and I'm not biased here because I agree it should be a meritocracy, but he won the Italian F4 championship, won the F3 European championship, has been on the podium twice [in F1], and qualified on the front row at Monza in the rain," said Wolff.
"I don't think we can say, just because his father is a billionaire, he is not here on merit. I think he is actually suffering from that stigma, and it's just not right. He can't do anything just because his father has been very successful in his own right.
"It's even more impressive that a kid with that environment chooses one of the most competitive sports in the world. Honestly, there is no discussion."
While Latifi failed to win a championship during his junior career, the Canadian did win six races across his three seasons in F2 with DAMS, finishing runner-up to Nyck de Vries last year prior to joining Williams.
As for Mazepin, the Russian won four races with ART Grand Prix en route to finishing second in GP3 in 2018, and is currently sixth in this season's F2 championship after winning two races, and could yet finish third with four races remaining.
"With Nicholas, he won races in F2, and we haven't seen what he is capable of," added Wolff. "It's his first season, but he's not somebody like 10 years ago that arrived in F1 without winning a race in a competitive junior series.
“Let’s not discredit Nick or Nikita before having seen them. I think Nikita has been a regular front-runner now in the F2 season. He won some races, or at least he was competing for some of the race wins, and the same thing for Nick.
"I think we are in the best possible state. We had much more drivers who came in only because they paid five, six years ago. Maybe I have the wrong recollection, I don’t want to name anybody, but you know who I mean.”
Toto again defending Racing Point/Aston/Mercedes Mk2 and Lewis wonders why there are no drivers like him on the grid! Because they are increasingly only there because they are supported by rich dad's.
Both the Hulk and Perez wouldn't be looking for jobs if it wasn't for Stroll, not to mention Ocon, a Merc driver having to take a year off to make way for him. Toto then has the cheek to say capping drivers wages is wrong! I have a lot of respect for what he has achieved in F1 but he needs to get a grip on reality. Annoyed Grrrrrrrrr.
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