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The Economics and Morality of Pay Drivers

The Economic Morality of Pay Drivers


            Formula 1 racing is often called the ‘Pinnacle of Motorsport,’ where the best drivers in the world come together to race the fastest cars at twenty races around the globe to provide the ultimate experience for both the drivers and the audience. F1 is one of the world’s most viewed sports, with prestigious races such as the Monaco Grand Prix yielding a TV audience of roughly 25 million annually. The cars are multi-million dollar machines capable of cornering forces approaching 5g, and top speeds often exceeding two hundred miles per hour. The cars are arguably the hardest cars in the world to drive, and require intense physical and mental training coupled with on-track experience if they are to be driven to their full potential.





Formula 1 used to be a relatively small-scale operation, with teams only consisting of a couple dozen members. As racing technology progressed, teams began to grow larger and larger in order to improve their cars and keep pace with the progression of auto racing. Developments in aerodynamics, light weight compounds, and computer technology brought us to the modern F1 team: A multi-million dollar operation with hundreds of employees and massive corporate sponsorship.  Of course, the rapid advancements in technology came with an exponential increase in the cost of running a team, which is the explanation for the aforementioned corporate sponsorships. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, F1 started to become a business with the advent of on-car advertisements, and team title sponsorships (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, for example). Companies began to sponsor teams in multiple ways, including strictly financial support, or joint-technological ventures in which companies would help F1 teams research into new technologies. Another way in which companies could put their advertisement in front of millions of TV viewers was through pay drivers. The concept behind pay drivers lies in companies backing young drivers with millions of dollars, essentially offering drivers to teams who need financial backing. The drivers are almost always rising talents in lower divisions who have a chance to race in F1. The reason companies target these drivers is so that they can put their advertisements on the car and in the name of the team, and the money brought to the racing team by the company will also help the team develop their car and be more competitive, benefitting both parties. By examining the impact of pay drivers on the quality of F1 racing and the safety of other drivers, I will show in this paper how the “purchase” of race seats in F1 is an immoral process that degrades the sport.



One of the first moral issues brought to the table is the devaluation of the experience level of a driver. Companies are not interested in backing already-established drivers in Formula 1; rising talents naturally attract more attention from fans and the media, and will help benefit the companies further. This leads to experience in F1 becoming relatively less important, even though on-track experience is critical in understanding how an F1 car works and reacts to certain inputs. A modern example of a more experienced driver being replaced with a younger driver happened at the end of the 2012 season, when the established German driver Timo Glock was replaced by the young English driver Max Chilton to drive for the Marussia F1 team. Chilton’s father Grahame is a “multi-millionaire vice chairman of insurance company Aon” (BBC), and brings millions of dollars to the Marussia team annually. It was revealed that Marussia could no longer afford to hire a driver with a large salary, and needed a driver to bring money to the team. Timo Glock had “introduced sponsors to the team, but his salary was significantly greater than what they paid. Chilton owes his drive to the fact that his ‘salary’ is far less than the income from the sponsors he brings with him” (BBC). In other words, Chilton accepts a small salary to compete in F1, and most of the sponsorship goes straight to the team. It is clear why this model is attractive to the teams given the extreme costs of competing in F1, but it is also a clear act of neglect toward the critical experience of older drivers. While the money brought by Chilton would help the team develop the car, would Chilton be able to handle pressure, adapt to drivers and track conditions around him, and rebound from poor results as well as a more experienced driver? This question is one of the main reasons why pay drivers are so controversial in F1; the teams value the money they receive more than the experience of established F1 drivers, which leads to a reduction in the quality of driver that we see racing.



Another moral objection here could be viewed from more of Debra Satz’s perspective in that this system could be exploiting the teams because of vulnerability. Marussia have one of the lowest budgets out of any team in F1, and failed to “manage with one pay driver and one salaried [driver]” (BBC), forcing them to hire another pay driver to replace Glock and his salary that they could not afford. The team was forced to accept a lower quality driver because of the extremely high costs of running in F1. A philosopher such as Satz might view the high costs of F1 as somewhat of an exploitation of the smaller teams in F1. Whether the market for F1 race seats can be considered a “noxious market” nor not is debatable, but it is clear that because of high costs the teams are limited to drivers who have corporate sponsorship behind them, rather than a more stable driver with experience. This in turn affects the ability of the team to succeed. 


Drivers have also expressed their anger over the increasing commonality of pay drivers getting seats that they arguably are not ready for. Jaime Alguersauri claimed that F1 has become “an auction” after losing his seat to a younger driver at the end of the 2011 season. His complaints reference the lack of a traditional ladder-based system where talent alone is the deciding factor in determining who gets a seat in the top tier of motorsport. Pay drivers have been around for a long time and F1 seats were never purely determined by raw talent, but the commonality of pay drivers and the increasingly frequent lack of experience of the pay drivers is a major cause for concern. I found that the description of F1 as “an auction” related to our discussions in class about Sandel, and how the purchase of a seat in F1 reduces the value of that seat. Sandel might argue that the value of the seat has been reduced because the driver bought into the seat with sponsorship money rather than earning the seat based solely on talent.



Another obvious concern in Formula 1 is the safety of the drivers. Over the past several decades, massive improvements in safety have been made. Even in the 1970’s driver deaths were commonplace and accepted as part of the danger of racing in Formula 1. Since then, safety has become of utmost importance, and the last driver death in the series happened in 1994 when Ayrton Senna died after a serious crash. The lack of a single death in F1 in nearly twenty years is surely a testament to the improved safety regulations, but some concerns over pay drivers are based on the potential danger that they bring to the sport. Pastor Maldonado is a Venezuelan driver who currently drives for Williams F1. He began his F1 career in 2011 when he signed to the team, bringing a massive 30 million pounds annually to Williams. The money came from PDVSA, a Venezuelan gas company, and the deal was “approved personally by the [Venezuelan] President Hugo Chavez” (BBC). Maldonado did little to impress during his rookie year in F1, although the team was not very competitive that year. The more important factor here is that Maldonado quickly gained a reputation as one of the more “dangerous” drivers on the grid. In his first season, Maldonado retired from six races, only scoring one point. Even in the 2012 season (his second season), Maldonado picked up ten penalties, twice as many as any other driver (Keith Collantine). Penalties are normally rewarded for dangerous or overaggressive driving. As for the 30 million pounds PDVSA brings to the team annually, it seems to have very little impact on the performance of the team. The team scored a total of five points in 2011, which was one of their worst seasons on record as they took 9th place in the constructor’s championship. The team improved in 2012 with 76 total points and 8th in the constructor’s championship. However, with 16 of 19 races of the 2013 season already over, Williams has only one point and is almost certain to take 9th place in the standings again (Formula 1). The team does not seem to benefit hugely from the deal, and both drivers and fans of F1 racing have spoken out against Maldonado as a potentially dangerous driver. A pole done in 2012 by the Telegraph newspaper in England revealed how the audience reacted to Maldonado’s driving, showing that out of 6903 people, roughly 87% of people believe that Maldonado was “a danger to other drivers.” The minimal improvements brought to the team along with the increased danger brought to other drivers show the devaluation of certain standards in F1. By choosing to race Maldonado, Williams made it clear that to an extent, they value the money over the safety of other drivers in the sport. For a sport that has already spent so much time and money trying to research ways to improve safety, having a system in which dangerous, inexperienced drivers can have race seats seems both backward and immoral.



Pay drivers have been a part of Formula 1 for a long time, and there is no denying that some of the drivers do eventually learn and improve to become competitive in the sport. However, the increased commonality of the pay drivers in the modern era of F1 is what concerns people the most. Also, many drivers and fans in F1 see some of the pay drivers as potential hazards. The fact that many modern pay drivers have almost zero on-track experience testing a Formula 1 car decreases the quality of racing, since most F1 fans agree that the sport should have the very best drivers in the world. When young drivers use massive corporate sponsorships to pay their way into a race seat, they are corrupting some of the traditional values associated with earning one’s position at the top. Not only does this system allow inexperienced drivers to take the place of established drivers, but also the potential danger posed by some pay drivers highlights the immorality of purchasing racing seats. There should not be a system that allows one to spend enough money to claim a spot in F1 if they are going to put other drivers at danger.























Works Cited:


Benammar , Emily . “Poll: is Pastor Maldonado a danger to other Formula One drivers after incident with Sergio Perez at Silverstone?.” The Telegraph . N.p., 12 July 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.


Benson, Andrew. “Pay as you go, go, go: F1’s ‘pay drivers’ explained.” BBC News. BBC, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <;.


“Formula 1 an auction, says driver Jaime Alguersuari.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. <


Collantine, Keith . “Stewarding can be tough, admits Maldonado.” MotorSportsTalk. NBC, 2 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. <;.


Rose, Gary. “Max Chilton brings ability as well as affluence to the F1 paddock.” BBC News. BBC, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <;. (Used for statistics) 

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Eventually We’ll End Up With A One-Make Series!

It was recently confirmed that the Double-DRS system will be banned for the 2013 season. The system was pioneered by Mercedes AMG Petronas team at the onset of the 2012 season, and another Double-DRS system is currently being developed by Lotus. Lotus originally protested against the system at the Chinese Grand Prix, only to have their protest rejected. They are currently the only other team besides Mercedes who have developed a Double-DRS.

A diagram of the Mercedes Double-DRS System (

Cost-cutting is the root cause of the ban of any Double-DRS mechanism; for several years now Formula 1 has been looking for any unnecessary expenses that can be removed from the sport. Formula 1 wants to avoid situations which may put teams in a ‘development race,’ and increase the cost of racing. For instance, the blown exhausts of 2011 were deemed a necessity up and down the pit lane, and millions of pounds were spent to find the perfect positioning of the exhaust pipes on the floor of the cars. This is the sort of engineering war that can raise the cost of racing for every team on the grid.


Ross Brawn disagrees with the idea that Double-DRS is too expensive (

The F1 Technical Working Group has decided that the Double-DRS system is too expensive a path for Formula 1 teams to take, and the majority of teams agreed that it should be banned for the 2013 season. Ross Brawn disagreed by stating, “People talk about the huge cost, but there isn’t really a huge cost. You all know that there are a couple of carbon pipes running down the car, and the man on the street will tell you that they cost a few thousands pounds – they are not millions of pounds.” Are the majority of teams really agreeing in order to cut costs?



Mercedes and Lotus have spent an unspecified amount of time and money developing their systems, and should now have the right to use these systems throughout the season. I completely agree with the fact that F1 costs are too high, and there are solutions to solving the cost problem. However, clever and (according to Ross Brawn) relatively inexpensive technological advancements should not be put to waste so quickly.

A look at Lotus’ Double-DRS system, likely to be used in the Belgian Grand Prix

The money that Lotus and Mercedes have spent developing their systems has effectively gone down the drain, and they are now left spending more of their money on other areas of the car, without any advantage given to them. Furthermore, the “majority” of other teams who voted to ban the device from F1 in 2013 now gain a relative advantage over Mercedes and Lotus, considering that they have spent less money and will share the same benefits brought by the original DRS system. Where is the sense in that? It must be noted that this is not an FIA decision. This decision was agreed upon by the majority of F1 teams, and I get the sense that several teams vote to ban the system in order to hold Mercedes and Lotus back. It is the logical thing to do in such a competitive sport, but it ruins some of the development and innovation in F1.


Surely the cost of motorhomes can be reduced? (

Costs in F1 can be reduced in other areas. Everywhere we look in F1, there are massive cost-cutting opportunities. In the    pits, the motor homes, the garages. By reducing several smaller factors in F1, one could significantly reduce the cost of racing all while keeping the development of the cars razor sharp. Without any room for development, eventually all F1 cars will approach identical aerodynamic designs, ruining the uniqueness of a multi-make series. F1 fans across the globe can only hope that reductions in cost are found elsewhere, and F1 engineers can be free to design new, exciting solutions.

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From 2011 Indian GP!!

Me, Dad, and Jackie Stewart at the 2011 Indian GP!!!

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Why is Hamilton’s Future Hanging in the Balance?

Believe it or not, 2012 is Lewis Hamilton’s sixth season with the McLaren team. It feels like yesterday when Hamilton made his outstanding debut season, and shocked the motorsport world by nearly winning the driver’s title as a rookie. His first two seasons with the team were incredibly successful, and he created a bond between he and the team that looked unbreakable. Now, however, Hamilton seems quite fed up with the simple errors being made by his team. The bond created by Hamilton in his first two seasons, and even prior, when he was in the McLaren Young Driver Program, seems to be weakening by the Grand Prix these days.

Hamilton is visibly frustrated with McLaren as well as with his own career in the past two seasons.

Look at it from Hamilton’s point of view; he has every reason to complain. The combination of a high-quality team such as McLaren and a driver like Lewis Hamilton should not be hampered by tedious errors. Hamilton should be winning races, chasing after the title. Instead, he loses several positions due to slow pit stops, or starts a race from the back of the grid due to a fueling miscalculation in qualifying. The Hamilton-McLaren duo isn’t enjoying the  nearly flawless success that it did in the early days of its birth.

Slow pit stops have cost Hamilton points several times already in 2012

When asked about his future with McLaren, Hamilton has been very cautious to make any definite statements. He does not skirt around the question, but leaves us with vague answers concerning his future. When asked whether he might wait until the end of the season to decide on a new contract, he answered with a simple, “Possibly. Possibly.” He claims that winning  most important to him now, and he can deal with another contract later. This behavior, combined with speculation and connections to several other teams, leads many to believe that his future with the McLaren team may not extend much further.

Hamilton has left us with vague answers concerning his future

This begs the question of whether a possible separation is mutual, or if it comes from either Hamilton or McLaren. Both Hamilton and McLaren would have excuses as to why they may wish to separate. In my opinion, Hamilton has reason more so than McLaren. This reason is simple. As stated before, Hamilton has a winning car in a top-notch team, and should therefore be fighting for victories. The team has let him down and somewhat restricted his title chase so far this season.

Could the famous pairing of Hamilton and McLaren disappear next season?

McLaren on the other hand, have a reason in that Hamilton has been the target of the media for quite a long time, and sometimes he reflects negatively on the team. He has criticized the team’s form, and their overall campaign. Jenson Button, on the other hand, reflects positively on the team, and is quieter about the way he expresses frustration. McLaren could be seeking another Button in their team. After all, several people said that after the 2011 season, Jenson Button was the number 1 driver in McLaren.

Many fans view Button as the current lead driver in McLaren

It is possible that the separation could be caused by an external force, meaning that Hamilton has been offered a seat at another team. The most likely vacancies for Hamilton would be Mark Webber’s Red Bull seat, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes seat, and less likely but still possible, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari seat. There has been much speculation and several connections from Hamilton to other teams on the grid, which could mean that Hamilton has been offered a tempting contract from another top team, causing a weakening of the tie between he and McLaren.

These could be the last races we see with Hamilton in a silver car. Unless…

The delay in the decision for a new contract is most likely due to Hamilton’s side of the equation. Although Hamilton can be outwardly critical of the team, or even of his own driving, he is a world class driver, and McLaren don’t really have enough of a reason to drop of him. In fact, they are rumored to have made an offer for another 5-year contract with Hamilton, showing their interest in keeping him. Hamilton does not seem to hold the same interest, unfortunately. He is not as enthusiastic about staying on with McLaren, and the ending of the current contract, combined with possible offers from other teams, has provided Hamilton with a window through which he can shift the path of his career. When commenting on Mark Webber’s speculated move to Ferrari, Alan Jones stated that a move to a new team can breathe a “fresh air” into a driver’s career, which could be exactly what Hamilton is seeking.

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Webber vs. Vettel: The Season So Far

Two races into the F1 season, and we as F1 fans have been treated with a fantastic couple of races in Australia and Malaysia. There have been some surprising results, the strong showings from Sauber in the first two races, Mercedes’ lack of race pace, and Fernando Alonso’s stunning victory in Malaysia. One area of interest in the F1 world lies within the Red Bull Racing team, more specifically between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. 


The Red Bull team mates have another head-to-head season in front of them

Last year, Webber was completely dominated by Vettel. Although Webber scored more points than he had in 2010, he was completely outgunned by his younger team mate, and won only a single race. Many thought 2011 could be the end of Webber’s run among the top driver’s, although some had hope that he could rebound in 2012. 


Webber was relegated to #2 after the 2010 season

So far, Webber is looking strong. His main downfalls in 2011 were a lack of qualifying pace, and a tendency to lose several positions before the first lap was over. His pace during the races, however, was often quite strong, and on par with Vettel’s lap times. So far this year, he has outqualified his team mate twice in a row, showing possible signs of an improvement from Webber in qualifying. Webber lost out to Vettel in the first race when Vettel secured second place, and Webber could only manage fourth. In Malaysia, Webber secured another fourth place finish, while Vettel scored zero points after a tire puncture late in the race. 


Webber in the pits in Malaysia



The Malaysian Grand Prix was somewhat chaotic, and therefore did not give a clear picture as to how the drivers and teams stacked up. If Webber can manage to beat Sebastian in qualifying, and be consistently quick on the first lap, he stands a strong chance of beating his team mate. 


Webber loses positions in Malaysia

For Webber, one can be sure that one of his primary goals this year is to beat his team mate, or at least race on the same level. After being completely dominated by Vettel last year, he must feel that he has to prove himself worthy of a Red Bull seat. So far, Red Bull have been slightly slower than McLaren, who seem to have the quickest car at the moment. If Red Bull are able to bring significant upgrades to the next few races and gain some aerodynamic advantages, then the title is fair game. 


So far, McLaren have proven to be quickest


So far this year, it seems that F1 fans around the world could view Round 2 of the titanic battle between Webber and Vettel that took place during the 2012 season. If Webber keeps up his pace, he could bring the fight back to Sebastian Vettel. Most likely, it will take a few more grand prix before we are able to determine how they stack up against each other. As of now, Webber is ahead of Vettel in the championship, but this could all change in an instant. If Webber is considering staying in F1 for much longer, he must seize this opportunity to fight back and finish ahead of Vettel. 


2012 could be the season for Webber to win races again


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Webber’s Chances at Red Bull?

Mark Webber has signed up for another year at Red Bull Racing in 2012, and claims that he has no intentions of retiring after this season. The question stands, is this the right decision for Webber? Many people suspect that Webber is knowingly signing up to race as a number two driver to reigning champion Sebastian Vettel. However, Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of the Red Bull squad, promised that Webber will be treated with equality.

Will Webber get an even shot at the championship as Vettel?

Mark Webber has had a huge amount of success at Red Bull Racing relative to his stints in other teams. He claimed two victories in 2009, four in 2010, and one more in 2011. However, after narrowly losing the championship to his team mate Vettel in 2010, Webber seemed mentally unconfident. In 2011, he never had the same precision, consistency, and blinding starts that he enjoyed in the 2010 season. In 2010, he dominated his team mate in numerous occasions; Monaco and Barcelona come to mind. The 2011 season saw a dramatic change, in which Vettel was at all times more in sync than Webber. Surely Vettel stepped up his game for the 2011 season, but was Webber seriously discouraged by his defeat in 2010?

Vettel simply dominated Webber in 2011, along with the rest of the field


Webber claimed to have issues adopting his driving style to the new Pirelli tires at the start of the 2011 season, and many suspected that the downforce provided by the blown diffusers suited Vettel’s driving style over Webber’s. However, it truly seemed that Webber lacked the sparkle that he held in 2010. By most standards, Webber had an excellent season in 2011; he won a race, two pole positions, and several podium spots. The problem is, Vettel won 11 races and 15 pole positions in the same car.


The question may not be if Webber is given a fair chance in 2012. The question may in fact be, is Webber even capable of challenging Vettel in 2012? If the blown diffuser really gave Vettel an advantage, maybe Webber will be able to gain back some lost ground. However, Webber faced a crushing defeat in 2010, followed by a season completely under the shadow of his team mate. Unfortunately, I feel that Webber has passed his prime, and will not be able to overcome his team mate again.

Unfortunately, Webber is unlikely to dethrone Vettel

Red Bull Racing maintains that they are happy with Webber’s performance. He has done a great job in the past three seasons in Red Bull, and retired only once in the 2011 season. However, if Webber wants to be treated as a first driver, he may have to look elsewhere. If Vettel keeps his performance at the level it was in 2011, he would be a challenge for any driver on the grid to keep up with.

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F1 2012: First Impressions

It’s a fascinating time of year in the F1 world. The teams have all (bar Mercedes, Marussia, and HRT) unveiled their 2012 designs, and we have just witnessed the first pre-season test in Jerez this past weekend. May I start off by saying how great it feels to see and hear F1 tracks ripping around a circuit again. It seems that every year in F1, the season goes by far to quickly, and the off-season lasts a lifetime. Fortunately, the 2012 F1 cars have left their windtunnels and have just finished blasting around the Jerez circuit for the first time this year.


After the team launches of the 2012 contenders, there was a massive buzz around one area of the car in particular -the nose. People have called then duck noses or platypus noses, and they are a result of new safety regulations this year concerning the legal height of the nose. The end result is what is now being called a “stepped” nose, with a dramatic drop in the height of the nose just beyond the drivers’ feet.

This photograph clearly shows the stepped nose of the Sauber C31

The above photograph of the 2012 Sauber C31 is a perfect example of a stepped nose, with the steep incline just before the front suspension. All teams who have launched their 2012 cars have gone with similar designs, except for McLaren, who’s MP4-27 has a nose that gradually slopes downward to the legal height.

The MP4-27, seen here with green aero paint, has a gradually swooping nose.


It would be unwise to say that McLaren have missed an opportunity with the stepped nose. Over the past few years, McLaren have typically had a aerodynamic strategy that requires a lower nose, where as other teams have implemented high, straight nose designs over the past two seasons. I imagine that McLaren must have explored the possibility of a stepped nose, and decided that their current design was the wisest decision. For a company that has won a quarter of it’s races, mistakes like these simply do not happen.


It is almost impossible to make any predictions as to which car is the quickest after the first test. However, as F1 fans, we all love to speculate and reason out which cars look strong. In my opinion, the Lotus E20 has looked stellar. In the hands of Kimi Raikkonen, who has been absent for F1 for two years, and rookie Romain Grosjean, the Lotus has been the fastest car on several occasions this weekend. I was impressed with the way the drivers were able to pump out quick, consistent lap times without any falter over the course of the weekend. A stable, reliable car is important in F1, and so far Lotus have shown that they have that locked down.

The Lotus E20 has looked quick and consistent this weekend

As I said earlier, it would be pointless to try to figure out which car is quickest after the first test, but the Lotus has looked particularly impressive.

What is most important this year will most likely be the amount of downforce at the rear of this car. Because blown diffusers were banned after the 2011 season, drivers left with only 70% of the rear downforce they enjoyed at the end of 2011. In my opinion, the team that best cracks the solution to the problem of rear downforce will have the best shot at being champions this year. Teams have obviously put a lot of thought and resources into the front of the car with the stepped noses and the beautifully complex front wings as seen on the above Lotus E20, but the key is the rear downforce.

One important aspect of the loss of rear downforce is that it may benefit drivers who are gentle with their tires. Wheelspin and loss of traction is more likely with the decrease of grip at the rear end, and this could give an advantage to drivers like Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, who are known for maintaining the longevity of their tires. In my opinion, this could give Jenson an advantage over the notoriously aggressive Hamilton, who may face another season in Button’s shadow.

Will the ban of blown diffusers help Jenson get an edge over his team mate?


All in all, fans of F1 should be massively excited for this season. The radical new designs, new rookies and the return of Raikkonen, and the lack of blown diffusers should make this season exhilarating. There will be a record 6 champions on the grid this season, each of whom will be pushing their hardest in an attempt to add to their tally. With only a month until the first race in Australia, time seems to be crawling.

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