Feature: When money rules over talent

Feature: When money rules over talent

29 November 2012 – Motorsport and money are words that go hand-in-hand. Whether it be the cost of creating a modern day Formula 1 car or the countless journeys to some of the world's most glamorous locations, there are few forms of competition that erase currency at such a rate. But what about the drivers chasing their childhood dreams?

With the global economic crisis ever-present, finding sponsors to help pave a route to the top echelon of single seater racing is becoming increasingly difficult. Hailing from the French town of Mulhouse, Tom Dillmann is the perfect example of a driver who possesses the talent to compete in high-level motor racing but does not have the financial backing to match.

The 23-year-old began his single seater career at an early age, rising through the ranks before being snapped up by Red Bull for its Junior Team. However, as is the sometimes overly-brutal nature of the programme, he lost his spot in 2008 and has since been embroiled in a battle to raise sufficient funds.

"It's been the situation for me for many years, since Formula 3," Dillmann, who missed five of this season's 12 GP2 rounds due to a lack of financial support, told GPUpdate.net. "After Red Bull I've never had someone to support me fully. I got offers all the time from the best teams as I had good results, but I couldn't sign as I didn't have the budget. I always had to sign for smaller teams with not so good results.

"That's how I've managed to continue my career and it's still the case in GP2. It was the same last year; I managed to do a race (Abu Dhabi Final) with iSport which is a top team, but it was only one race so it was possible to find the money. Then I had offers from DAMS, from iSport and all of the top teams but I couldn't find the budget."

It is a story that has become all too common on the ladder to Formula 1, with the best talents not always shining through. If you cannot provide the necessary cheque from a wealthy company or funding scheme, teams will often be forced to look elsewhere and under many circumstances opt for a less-talented driver. Unfortunately for Dillmann, who tasted victory in Bahrain earlier this season, he cannot accept any of the offers received from front-running GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 teams at present.

Dillmann's highlight of 2012, winning in Bahrain

"I work now for this, to find the money," he says of the situation. "It's very difficult at the moment to find sponsors. You have to find someone who wants to invest in you, with a contract that they can earn some money later on. Officially, a budget for GP2 is about 1.8 million euros and in World Series by Renault it's around 900,000 euros. I've also had offers for less money, much less - even from the top teams. But, at the moment, even if you have to find 1.2 million euros it is still really a lot of money."

The question now hovers: what can be done to help motorsport's most promising stars move forward? The Racing Steps Foundation, established by Graham Sharp and former F1 Champion John Surtees, is combating this issue. In its own words, the organisation aims 'to help a small number of talented but under-funded young drivers to achieve their full potential.' RSF-backed James Calado was a rival of Dillmann this year, having both finished on the podium at the 2011 GP2 Final. With the Briton fighting for pole positions and victories, Dillmann was left to ponder what might have been.

"When you see what Calado did this year, I think what I showed at the beginning with the top GP2 teams was the same, you know," he adds. "It's a shame I couldn't race with a team at the front this year, but I'm still grateful to Rapax for the chance they gave me. I was a rookie with an inexperienced team-mate, so I think I achieved quite good results considering that. It would be easier to be racing for a team at the front with a top team-mate. Then you just have to focus on driving, but it's not like this for me."

Dillmann is eager to contest a full season in 2013

In Dillmann's case, there is not currently a clear French equivalent of the RSF - something the country has been lacking since Volant Elf. The scheme, established by the well-known oil company in the early 1970s, was purely focused on helping drivers with proven talent make steps forward. During an autumn driver school at Paul Ricard and Magny Cours the corporation would pick two winners, both of whom were given the money required to complete a full year in Formula Renault. If successful, seats in Formula 3, Formula 2 and ultimately Formula 1 would follow.

Who were the maiden beneficiaries of this shootout? None other than the late Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay, two men who claimed Grand Prix victories during their respective careers. Future Elf-supported stars included race winner Oliver Panis and four-time Champion Alain Prost, highlighting just how successful programmes such as this can be. If others were to follow in the RSF's modern-day footsteps, perhaps drawing upon the example previously set by Elf and offering an element of rivalry to the Red Bull system, similar outcomes would almost certainly be achieved in the future.

Looking ahead to Dillmann's winter, it will no doubt be filled with countless negotiations in a bid to raise the finances required for a complete campaign in 2013. One just has to hope, for the sake of Formula 1's future credibility, drivers like himself will be able to successfully overcome the funding battle and rise to the top of the sport.


Mike Seymour
GPUpdate.net Editor

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Wednesday 1 October 2014

  2. Caterham says it is operating as normal 21:05

    Caterham says it is operating as normal

    The Caterham F1 team says its base at Leafield continues to operate as normal and that preparations are ongoing for this...

    F1
  3. Video: Pirelli's guide to the Japanese GP 18:05

    Video: Pirelli's guide to the Japanese GP

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli previews this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

    F1
  4. Hugo Boss switches from McLaren to Mercedes 17:15

    Hugo Boss switches from McLaren to Mercedes

    Hugo Boss will become a team partner of the Mercedes Formula 1 team next season, it has been confirmed. The announcement,...

    F1
  5. Viñales: I thought Suzuki approach was a joke 16:18

    Viñales: I thought Suzuki approach was a joke

    Maverick Viñales says "it felt like it was a joke" when he was first approached by Suzuki to join the Japanese manufacturer...

    MotoGP
  6. Räikkönen 'finally' has good feeling with car 15:05

    Räikkönen 'finally' has good feeling with car

    Kimi Räikkönen is in an optimistic frame of mind ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix after finally finding the sweet spot with h...

    F1
  7. Column: 'The rise and rise' of Max Verstappen 14:30

    Column: 'The rise and rise' of Max Verstappen

    Just a year ago Max Verstappen was the man to beat in the international karting scene. This weekend he will make his Friday...

    F1
  8. Video: Rosberg previews the Japanese GP 13:30

    Video: Rosberg previews the Japanese GP

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg looks ahead to this weekend's Japanese round at Suzuka.

    F1
  9. Sauber ceases de Silvestro driving programme 13:00

    Sauber ceases de Silvestro driving programme

    Sauber has terminated Simona de Silvestro's driving programme due to "financial reasons on her side", the team has confirmed...

    F1
  10. Honda: No decision yet on 2015 drivers 12:55

    Honda: No decision yet on 2015 drivers

    McLaren has not yet made a decision on its driver line-up for 2015, Honda's Head of Motorsport Yasuhisa Arai has...

    F1
  11. Petrucci signs two-year deal with Pramac 12:34

    Petrucci signs two-year deal with Pramac

    Danilo Petrucci will join the Pramac Racing Team next season, linking up with Yonny Hernández. The 23-year-old Italian,...

    MotoGP
  12. Salo named as Suzuka driver steward 11:30

    Salo named as Suzuka driver steward

    Mika Salo will be the FIA driver steward for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Salo, who is a regular in the...

    F1
  13. Honda reveals first image of new F1 engine 10:36

    Honda reveals first image of new F1 engine

    Honda has released the first image of its 2015 Formula 1 power unit on the eve of this weekend's Japanese Grand...

    F1
  14. Stewart: Verstappen can be a superstar 09:52

    Stewart: Verstappen can be a superstar

    Sir Jackie Stewart believes Max Verstappen can be a "young superstar", providing the 17-year-old can deal with the pressure...

    F1
  15. Kobayashi keeps Caterham seat for Suzuka 08:18

    Kobayashi keeps Caterham seat for Suzuka

    Kamui Kobayashi will retain his Caterham seat for his home race at Suzuka this weekend, alongside regular driver Marcus...

    F1
  16. Suzuka memories: Häkkinen vs Schumacher 05:04

    Suzuka memories: Häkkinen vs Schumacher

    Relive the final battle between Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher during the 2001 Japanese Grand Prix. Schumacher,...

    F1
  17. Tuesday 30 September 2014

  18. Renault braced for engine penalties 16:03

    Renault braced for engine penalties

    Renault says it is braced for a spate of engine penalties in the closing stages of the 2014 season. Toro Rosso rookie...

    F1
  19. 14:30

    MotoGP photos: Suzuki presents 2015 bike

    MotoGP
  20. Suzuki signs Aleix Espargaró, Viñales for 2015 13:28

    Suzuki signs Aleix Espargaró, Viñales for 2015

    Suzuki has signed Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales for its comeback MotoGP season in 2015. The Japanese manufacturer,...

    MotoGP
  21. Video: Force India drivers preview Suzuka 11:59

    Video: Force India drivers preview Suzuka

    Force India drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez preview the Japanese Grand Prix.

    F1
  22. Ferrari 'determined' to overhaul Williams 11:55

    Ferrari 'determined' to overhaul Williams

    Ferrari says it is "determined" to reclaim third in the Constructors' standings during the season run-in. With five...

    F1
  23. Formula E chief outlines manufacturer plan 11:33

    Formula E chief outlines manufacturer plan

    Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag has set out plans for the new all-electric championship to progressively move away from its...

    Formula E
  24. Button says McLaren on 'upward curve' 10:03

    Button says McLaren on 'upward curve'

    Jenson Button believes that his McLaren team is on an "upward curve" with the development of the MP4-29 chassis, even though...

    F1
  25. Suzuka memories: Senna, Prost collide, 1990 05:07

    Suzuka memories: Senna, Prost collide, 1990

    A year after their infamous clash as McLaren team-mates, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collide at the first corner of the...

    F1
  26. Monday 29 September 2014

  27. Video: Sainz Jr. inspects shopping mall 16:24

    Video: Sainz Jr. inspects shopping mall

    Carlos Sainz Jr. carries out a unique inspection of the Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi ahead of its opening in November.

    F1
  28. Penske adds Pagenaud as fourth driver 15:25

    Penske adds Pagenaud as fourth driver

    Simon Pagenaud will drive a fourth Penske car in 2015, the reigning champion team has announced. The 30-year-old...

    Indy
  29. Video: Rossi crashes out at Aragón 14:09

    Video: Rossi crashes out at Aragón

    Valentino Rossi avoided serious injury during this violent crash in Sunday's Aragón Grand Prix.

    MotoGP
  30. Rossi back to '100 per cent' after crash 13:55

    Rossi back to '100 per cent' after crash

    Valentino Rossi says he is already feeling "100 per cent" again after his Aragón Grand Prix crash. The works Yamaha rider...

    MotoGP
  31. Hamilton yearning for first Suzuka win 11:58

    Hamilton yearning for first Suzuka win

    Lewis Hamilton has his sights fixed on claiming his first ever victory at the Suzuka circuit this weekend. Although...

    F1
  32. Verstappen confirmed for Suzuka practice 11:19

    Verstappen confirmed for Suzuka practice

    Toro Rosso has confirmed that future racer Max Verstappen will drive at a Formula 1 event for the first time this weekend,...

    F1
  33. Single DRS zone retained at Suzuka 11:11

    Single DRS zone retained at Suzuka

    The FIA has retained a single DRS zone for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. As in previous years at the Suzuka...

    F1
  34. Force India continuing to develop VJM07 10:49

    Force India continuing to develop VJM07

    Force India boss Vijay Mallya says the team will continue to develop the VJM07 chassis over the closing stages of the 2014...

    F1
  35. Verstappen passes extensive medical tests 09:41

    Verstappen passes extensive medical tests

    Max Verstappen has passed an extensive medical evaluation as preparations ramp up for his maiden Formula 1 campaign with...

    F1
  36. Suzuka memories: Räikkönen's last-lap pass 05:12

    Suzuka memories: Räikkönen's last-lap pass

    Kimi Räikkönen claimed victory at Suzuka in 2005 with this stunning last-lap move on Giancarlo Fisichella.

    F1
  37. Sunday 28 September 2014

  38. 17:05

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Aragón

    MotoGP
  39. Rossi suffers concussion in Aragón crash 16:22

    Rossi suffers concussion in Aragón crash

    Valentino Rossi suffered a concussion but escaped serious injury following his crash in the Aragón Grand Prix on...

    MotoGP
  40. Lorenzo wins epic dry-wet race at Aragón 13:53

    Lorenzo wins epic dry-wet race at Aragón

    Jorge Lorenzo claimed his first win of 2014 in an epic dry-wet race at MotorLand Aragón after Repsol Honda riders Marc...

    MotoGP
  41. 12:51

    Latest FR3.5 photos: Sunday at Paul Ricard

    FR 3.5
  42. Sainz Jr. inches towards title with seventh win 12:50

    Sainz Jr. inches towards title with seventh win

    Red Bull young driver Carlos Sainz Jr. controlled proceedings at Paul Ricard to claim his second win of the weekend and move...

    FR 3.5
  43. Caterham has performed a small miracle – Ravetto 10:24

    Caterham has performed a small miracle – Ravetto

    Caterham Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto believes that the squad has achieved a "small miracle" in 2014, following the...

    F1
  44. Lotus pair hopeful of more 2014 points 07:28

    Lotus pair hopeful of more 2014 points

    Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado say that they have not ruled out adding to the squad's points tally...

    F1
more news