Mark Webber says the standard of drivers in F1 has fallen since he entered the sport 11 years ago.
Webber, who is quitting F1 to join the World Endurance Championship at the end of the year, believes today’s grid is not as strong as it was in 2002.
“When I was on the grid at the back with Minardi you had [Eddie] Irvine, [Mika] Salo – all those guys had been on podiums,” he told Autosport.
Now he believes “there are a lot of talented guys out there, but a lot are slipping through the net unfortunately. That’s a sad state.”
Webber singled out Sauber reserve driver Robin Frijns as a “phenomenal young talent” who was struggling to find a place in F1 as he did not have any money behind him.
During the off-season race-winners and podium-scorers such as Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock lost F1 drives as their teams had to find drivers who could bring backing.
When Webber made his grand prix debut in Melbourne 11 years ago there were nine race-winning drivers on the grid: Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Olivier Panis, Jacques Villeneuve, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Eddie Irvine.
At this year’s season-opening race there were also nine former race winners among 22 starters. Webber was one of them, along with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado.