Adrian Sutil has lost out on his race seat for 2015 at Sauber to Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, both of whom are bringing fair amounts of budget to the team.
The difference is now, he’s not just calling them out – but he is calling out the pay-to-race situation, which has grown in some respects over the last four or five years.
“The budgets some drivers are paying for a year are out of control,” Sutil told Autosport this weekend. “This is not the way it should be.”
He added, “I remember when Minardi or Arrows were in Formula 1 and were still more or less profitable. And there were maybe a few drivers with sponsorship, but this was not the priority.
“It would be good to have this [situation] back, and then maybe you could call it a sport again.”
Three things here. One, when Sutil entered the sport as a rookie in 2007 with the Spyker team, now known as Force India, he was reported to have brought at least a portion of the budget to the team to provide for the opportunity.
Second, in the last four-five years, there’s been a reduction of manufacturer entries in F1 – BMW, Toyota and Honda have all pulled out as factory entries with Honda only returning next year as McLaren’s engine partner – which has reduced the amount of paid, non-budget required seats.
Third, Sauber, sad to say, has fallen into the “Minardi or Arrows” status as an organization the last year or two, really through no fault of its own.
Each of the four new teams appointed to F1 in 2010 – Caterham (then as Lotus), Marussia (then as Manor, then Virgin), HRT (formerly Campos) and USF1 – all have collapsed. Caterham will only race in 2015 if it can find a buyer, which isn’t that viable of a prospect at the moment.
So as the bottom has fallen out, eventually someone had to be at the bottom of the barrel – and after a scoreless 2014, Sauber has now hit that position.
The team has finished 10th in the Constructor’s Championship and thus taken away the lowest possible monetary amount that goes with it.
With Esteban Gutierrez and Telmex also leaving, Sauber needs a greater amount of money to survive in modern day F1.
And while that’s unfortunate given the team’s pedigree as a marquee midfield organization for more than 20 years, the reality is that it’s a Sauber problem – not a pay-driver problem – currently affecting F1.
A cursory look through the 18 drivers confirmed for 2015 would reveal only three – Sauber’s pair and Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado – as bringing a substantial budget to the team’s lineup.
So these quotes smack more of sour grapes than it does a serious pay driver problem in F1 at the moment. There are plenty of other items F1 needs to look out for this offseason before 2015, but it’s not “not a sport” as Sutil attests.