Will Pay Drivers Become A Phenomenon Of The Past?

A trending topic among F1 fans of late has been the FIA’s overhaul of the super licence qualification system. The points formula, which is set to shape the career’s of up-coming talents, has been an aspect under particular scrutiny with many high profile analysts questioning whether the system will stifle young drivers in junior formula. However, a counter argument to this which has been proclaimed is the fact that experience will now be valued more highly and that pay drivers entering the sport will become a phenomenon of the past. The validity of the latter statement is questionable.

F1’s most opinionated Youtuber, Harrison101, analysed the new system in his latest video. Among many factors discussed, he identified the fact that the pay driver debate will now be forgotten. While it is a rare occurrence during one of Harrison’s videos, I disagreed with this suggestion, initially commenting;

  “I don’t totally agree with the argument that it will eradicate the pay driver debate. It will certainly dilute it, but an aspect of the argument which is forgotten by most fans is that pay drivers do have plenty of talent to couple with their money. Pastor Maldonado would still be in Formula One now, even if this system was implemented during his time in GP2. It is the same scenario with Esteban Gutierrez, (who came 1st in GP3 and 3rd in GP2).”

This comment was made prior to making any calculations as to how many points either Gutierrez or Maldonado would have scored, in the event that this super licence system was in operation during their junior formula escapades. As such, consider this a hypothesis. I began to wonder whether the comment would also apply in the case of Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton, two pay drivers also identified by Harrison in his analysis. As such, I delved into the archives and found intriguing results.

Super Licence Changes Analysis (Corrected2)

The findings featured above account for the final three years spent in junior formula prior to their F1 opportunities. As anticipated, Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonado would have made the grade required for graduation, with the latter’s impressive final three years of a total four in GP2 accounting for a sizeable 68 points. Meanwhile, a GP3 crown worth 30 points, followed by a bronze medal in GP2 worth an equal sum would have seen Gutierrez score an impressive 60 within the three year period.

However, the exploits of Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton are evidently less impressive. 14 points accumulated by the former may seem surprising, on account of the fact that Marcus enjoyed three top ten campaigns in GP2, yet the points system is undoubtedly skewed in favour of headline results. This point is further validated by Max Chilton’s 20 points, attained from finishing P4 in the series in 2012. Despite this, Ericsson and Chilton share the unfortunate fact that neither would have achieved 40 points leading up to their maiden F1 outings – whether additional experience in junior categories would have altered this will forever remain a mystery.

Regardless, the results demonstrate that the new super licence system will not eradicate the pay driver phenomenon, as my hypothesis suggested. In spite of this, I was admittedly surprised by the lack of points scored by Chilton and Ericsson across their final three seasons in junior formula – ultimately, they would not have made their F1 debut’s in 2013 and 2014 respectively and as such, may have never made it to the pinnacle of the sport.

Despite this, the aforementioned talent to couple with funding is evident in the case of all four drivers. They would have all managed to accumulate points in hugely competitive categories, and for this reason, deserve more credit from the fans for their abilities than they typically receive. On the basis of this evidence, two have fully deserved their opportunities at the pinnacle of motorsport and even in the imminently tough new world for young drivers, would still have risen to the top.

A big thanks to Harrison for providing great quality F1 content which always proves intriguing.

Image Credit: "Pastor Maldonado 2014 Singapore FP3"
By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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