There are 12 teams in Formula 1. Each has 2 drivers. 24 in total. That is, only 24 race seats at the highest level of motorsport. For 2012, only 1 remains available. That it is with HRT, who compete at the back of the field, is not a problem for an aspiring Formula 1 driver. Any race seat in Formula 1 is priceless.
Well… that’s not strictly true. Formula 1 is about money. To have the best car, you must spend the most money on development. To have the best drivers, you must pay for them. If you don’t have the budget, you don’t win. It’s simple.
For those teams who struggle financially, pay drivers are an option. A driver with little or no Formula 1 experience is more likely to find a drive if he has the backing of sponsors. For a team like HRT, where financial survival is a real problem, a pay driver is an attractive option.
Unfortunately for teams that use pay drivers, they can have major drawbacks. Lack of Formula 1 experience limits a pay driver’s ability to develop the car and extract all of the avilable performance from the car. If the driver is not performing and the car is not being developed well enough, the team will not become more competitive, and will struggle to attract sponsors, which in turn hinders further progress.
Of course, it is always possible that a significant talent could be unearthed in a pay driver. Although he has never been referred to as a pay driver, Michael Schumacher’s first race in Formula 1 for Jordan was financed by Mercedes. No-one would dispute that it was worth it.
It is generally expected that HRT will choose their second driver based largely on financial criteria. If they decide not to do that, there are a few skilled and experienced drivers available. Rubens Barrichello is available, now that Bruno Senna has signed for Williams. Adrian Sutil is an option, having lost his drive at Force India. Vitantonio Liuzzi claims to have a contract with HRT, but the team has not confirmed his place for 2012. Jaime Alguersuari has been let go by Toro Rosso. Alguersuari has the added benefit for HRT of being Spanish, as is HRT.
All of the drivers listed above would be able to take HRT forward. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that HRT could afford to employ an experienced driver. With pre-season testing starting in less than 3 weeks, HRT must surely choose their second driver soon.