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.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/