Romain Grosjean – an extremely fast and versatile driver, he is certainly something special. Put Grosjean in a Formula 3 car and he will win races; put him in three generations of GP2 cars (GP2 Asia 2008, and Main Series 2008 – 2011) and he will again prove his credentials. And if that isn’t proof of his abilities; how about a part season in a Matech Ford GT in the FIA World Championship, of which he was leading four rounds in after taking two victories with co-driver Thomas Mutsch. Competing in the Le Mans 24 hours, and a part seasons in Auto GP; he won the latter despite missing the first two races of the championship. The point I am trying to make is that in each of the above mentioned series; Grosjean has been able to adapt to a different team, engine and chassis and succeed. However, the ridiculousness of the business of Motor Racing is that he may not get a seat in Formula One next season, despite leading the current 2011 GP2 Series by 25 points.
So, the Lotus Renault GP team face a difficult choice. Evidently, keeping space for the unfortunate Robert Kubica (who suffered from severe hand and arm injuries following a horrific pre season rally crash) seems a foregone conclusion, and so it should be. The Pole is regarded as one of the most talented drivers in the championship. Current LRGP drivers Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld have since struggled since the incredible back to back podiums by each driver in the first two races of the season. It is veteran Heidfeld who seems likely to make way for Kubica, should he return. Among Kubica’s possible team mates are Vitaly Petrov and Grosjean himself. A nauseating dilemma for the team and Formula One fans as well, as one of them will get the drive while the other is potentially on the sidelines; a situation Heidfeld knows all too well.
Nick Heidfeld is one of the most underrated drivers and wrongly so. His consistency and race craft is well appreciated throughout the paddock, and no-one doubts his race pace. So why does he have to fight for a full time ride season after season? Because Formula One is about money, and those who have it, have no problems. Those that do not, regardless of talent are cast aside. Although proving that they are good, fast drivers; drivers like Pastor Maldonado and Vitaly Petrov got the job due to sponsorship deals and plenty of backing. Now I am not suggesting that they do not deserve their place in Formula One; their GP2 performances state that they are. However pay drivers should be at least up to the task and drivers such as Sakon Yamamoto and Yuji Ide (however good they were in Japan) simply were not fast enough for the standards of F1, thus costing more talented drivers a deserved place.
Nico Hulkenberg helped Team Germany to the A1GP title in the 2006/7 season, before taking the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2008. He went on to win the GP2 title the next again year, becoming the first driver to seal the championship before the final round. After a steady yet impressive first year in Formula One with Williams; he brilliantly took Pole Position in Brazil. Yet, in 2011 he has been resigned to First Practise on a Friday with Force India. He lost his seat due to a lack of sponsorship money, a likely excuse. Hulkenberg and Grosjean both show that they are exceptional talents in virtually everything they drive, yet such is the hypocrisy of Formula One these days, that money overrides talent. What happened to Giorgio Pantano I hear you ask, a deserving winner of GP2 in 2008, left without a drive in favour of others and the list continues. Gary Pafett, Neel Jani, Adam Carroll, Marko Asmer and Mike Conway have all been contracted with teams but have not managed to secure a drive. Even current Lotus F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen initially failed to get a drive in 2006 despite finishing second in GP2 in 2005.
The idea of pay drivers in Formula One is nothing new, but it risks wasting actual talent for those who have a bigger cheque book. It is quite simple, and especially with the current cost cutting in Formula One; talent should override money, the way it used to be; so that the fans who pay to watch this sport get to see the best drivers in the world, not the excessively funded.