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?
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.
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."
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.