Formula One is ridiculously expensive to the point where no one can truly fathom the cost for team ownership and bringing a driver like Nikita Mazepin to the grid is often a harsh reality for under-funded teams.
Former F1 Supremo, Bernie Ecclestone noted the fiscal realities necessary for Haas F1 during their development and early operating costs.
“If somebody wants to be competitive, they (will have to) come in and over four years spend $1 billion as Red Bull did,” – Bernie Ecclestone on start up costs for Haas F1, March 21, 2016
Most folks I know can’t come up with that kind of start up and operating costs, this is not a knock on the company I keep, and to keep that team going you’re going to need a lot of sponsorship and maybe a “Pay Driver”.
There isn’t an absolute dictionary definition of a “Pay Driver” but in simple terms it is an F1 driver that has a driver seat that isn’t based on merit or skill, but on their ability to bring money to the team. To fill the team’s coffers the “Pay Driver” can use their sponsorship money or personal wealth.
A recent example of a Pay Driver is Nikita Mazepin of Haas F1. Mazepin is the son of Russian businessman, Dmitry Mazepin, who is the owner of the Uralchem Integrated Chemical Company has a net worth of an estimated $1.3 billion. Uralchem sponsors the Haas F1 Team and based on Nikita Mazepin’s recent performance I can assume that he is poster boy for pay drivers.
- Best Finish: 17th at Imola and Monaco
- Best Qualifying: 19th at Bahrain, Imola, and Monaco
- Zero points earned in the Drivers’ & Constructors’ Championships.
- He’s never finished on the lead lap, his best showing is two-laps behind.
- In his debut F1 race he crashed out in the third turn of the first lap.
I can’t foresee maintaining your job in any profession with results like that but I am realistic about Mazepin’s position in life and that he is major source of funds for a team without great sponsorship. We all know someone that had life handed to them because of their station in life and motor sports is no different.
But not every pay driver is an overly entitled shunt waiting to happen. Yes Lance Stroll drives for his father’s team but he has shown promise throughout his career with three podium finishes and one pole position. That’s what separates a pay driver from someone with financial backing: results.
Motor sports has had many pay drivers over the years but for every Niki Lauda there are a few cats that would better served playing “F1 2020” on the PS4. Here is my take on the worst pay drivers in F1 history: