Brundle concerned over pay-driver prevalence in F1

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Of all the regulation changes either mooted or scheduled to take place ahead of 2014, one that hasn’t been addressed fully for Formula One is escalating costs. A cost cap for 2015 has been preliminary suggested, but no further details have been provided as to whether that will actually come to fruition.

As a part of the high costs, the number of “pay drivers” has risen to the point where they’ve infiltrated the leading teams. Martin Brundle, ex-driver and now a key F1 TV analyst, outlined the concern over the prevalence of pay drivers.

“The main problem is that they’ve got to stop it being so expensive to run the cars, so it stops the need for all this cash,” Brundle said at the Autosport Show this past weekend. “When a team like Lotus – the only one to really challenge Red Bull consistently last year – is short of money, then something is fundamentally wrong.

Lotus, of course, has been in the crosshairs with its decision to take Pastor Maldonado on for 2014, given his sum of Venezuelan backing that he has enjoyed for the balance of his career.

Brundle did admit that these still can be talented drivers, but it’s a labeling and reputation issue. Once you’re stuck with that “label” of a “pay driver,” it can be very hard to shake.

“There’s no doubt that the pay drivers are creeping their way up the grid. But they’re still great racing drivers,” he admitted.

Interestingly, Brundle’s own son is a good example of a driver who, if talent were the only deciding factor, could have actively pursued an F1 career. But Alex Brundle instead has gone down the sports car route and linked up with Nissan. He has driven P2 class prototypes for Greaves Motorsport and OAK Racing at Le Mans, and now has an opportunity to make his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut with the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team in its ORECA 03 Nissan in a couple weeks.

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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