In the modern world of F1, 20 of the world’s 'best drivers' (soon to be 22) take to the grid in the fastest cars known to man and woman. Or at least, that's how it should be. But in a tough economy, someone who brings £30 million to the table is considerably more attractive to a cash-strapped outfit than someone who offers no bonus cash, even if he’s much better behind the wheel. Don't get me wrong, some 'pay drivers' have immense talent and could well have earned their spot in F1 on merit. But others are prone to more repair bills than prize money.
The current crop of 20 drivers are certainly a mixed bag. However, quite a lot are not up to the job of competing. One name that instantly screams out is Pastor Maldonado who had another self inflicted retirement at the Belgian Grand Prix (the failure was caused by hitting the kerb at Eau Rouge too forcefully). The Venezuelan has earned his spot at the financially struggling Lotus team with his huge PDVSA oil sponsorship paying good money to have him in a seat
While his CV boasts a grand prix victory in Barcelona 2012, the good results come too few and far between that this card is waning too thin to the point the thread snapped long ago. Maldonado can be excused as he was the 2010 GP2 champion, yet other successful winners and runners up have had no F1 careers despite deserving the chance (Davide Valsecchi, Luiz Razia, Jolyon Palmer to name a few). With all the talent coming through the ranks, Maldonado’s days could be numbered unless he backs up his GP win with more consistent and fast performances.
A second candidate for the axe is a personal favourite of mine, Sweden's Marcus Ericsson. His consistency is brilliant, however, he seems to lack that decisive racers instinct for ducking and diving between the cars. Although, to be fair to him, the Sauber seems to lack the bite to allow him to do this. The GP2 race winner, however, knows how to muscle it in the DAMS, so like all drivers on the list, we don't have the knowledge of them driving a top F1 car.
The third and final man on this list is driving a Manor, he's Spanish and has a strong accent. Roberto Mehri to be exact. The Spaniard has caused a number of accidents in Formula Renault 3.5 (Belgian Grand Prix.) Mehri may be an F1 driver yet in the lower series he is only 12th in the championship standings - not the pedigree of someone in the pinnacle of motorsport. Mehri might have recently closed the gap to Will Stevens, however, rather than seeing this as a sign of Mehri coming to pace, it's more a in the hands of a competitive driver, however, nobody believes it could score points or get within 2 seconds of a Mercedes.
So who deserves the seats? In recent years, DTM has become a haven for F1 drivers who lack the budget to get a top seat despite deserving a place on the grid. The first man is someone who fully deserves to race his home race in Sochi... Vitaly Petrov. Debuting in 2010, he competed hard, ruining Webber and Alonso's title challenge by making his Renault as wide as the track itself. The 2009 GP2 runner up was on the podium for the first time in the opening race of the 2011 season. He spent his final season in the sport with backmarker Caterham and nearly took points with a P11 which also won them the Caterham/Marussia battle. A strong CV from someone who has no place in the sport, albeit better than several drivers on the grid now.
The second person is a German who spent a long 8 years on and off in the sport yet was always underrated. Timo Glock scored two points on debut for Jordan in 2004 and when he returned in 2008, then a GP2 champion, he scored consistently with Toyota. He proved himself as a consistent driver and fine overtaker, taking 3 podiums over 2 years before a withdrawal left him stranded with Virgin Racing. The uncompetitive car left him spending three years without points and a best of 12th at the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix.
Finally, another man who deserves the shot is a former Renault driver who is a rallycross bronze medalist, Nelson Piquet Jr. Controversial I know, but the man with a podium was at the mercy of Briatore especially 'crashgate'. The former F1 driver scored 19 points over one-and-a-half years and achieved a podium in 2008 at Germany with second place and a solid fourth place at Japan. The 2014/15 Formula E champion can clearly save energy/fuel, so, with a pedigree like that surely it's worth someone to take a chance on.
by Matthew Ganon