The beginning of the 2015 season was a bit of an oddity considering Sauber were staring at a very serious threat from a former driver who have been jettisoned from the team even though he had a contract to drive. In fact, they were at risk of having their cars confiscated over the Australian Grand Prix weekend.
Not to be outdone, Lotus now seem to be in a similar situation this weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix as reserve driver Charles Pic has brought charges against the team for contractually promising a certain amount of time behind the wheel. Due to a host of struggles with the Renault engine in 2014, the team decided to give Pastor Maldonado (who crashed in practice today by the way) and Romain Grosjean all the seat time.
Pic has leveled charges and now a Belgian court have threatened the impounding of the teams cars after Sunday’s race. As AUTOSPORT relays, Lotus boss Gerard Lopez doesn’t think it will come to that:
“We are having our legal department look at it. This will be solved, and solved in a manner that is adequate,” said Lopez.
“We know there is a difference in the number of the days [Pic should have driven], but I know we’ll find an amicable solution, and the show goes on.
“I think the cars will leave as planned. I don’t envisage there being an issue. I know there will be a resolution.”
Here is the crux of it from my perspective. F1 teams have made their own bed with the prolific use and reliance on paying drivers. Drivers who pay for the privilege of either driving the car or being the reserve driver. Now the sport must lay in it.
Drivers know that in order to get a shot at driving they have to raise lots of cash and backing. That cash comes with expectations and promises made. Perhaps in the old days, the drivers might have career backing patrons but the teams were focused on the fine print of their own sponsorship deals. Effectively, the paying driver has become a sponsorship deal for teams but they don’t appear to be reading the fine print like they used to.
A driver raises cash and when they promise a patron seat time, they have to deliver on that promise. When a team agrees to that seat time, everything is fine but when they don’t, the patron feels like their backing is in vain and we will see more and more paying drivers take teams to court over these types of issues.
In the old days, teams could easily change their minds and poop on reserve drivers but now these drivers come with big contracts and patron expectations on how the team must deliver in order to have access to the driver’s backing cash.
If paying drivers have effectively replaced title sponsors for these small teams, they’ll want to check the fine print as patrons expect results for their backing of a driver. It’s a new school way and litigious but some teams are treating drivers in an old school manner ignoring the complexities of their new cash flow process.
You can’t take Charles Pic’s cash from his backers and promise him seat time and then not deliver. That may have worked in the old days but not any more. The cash is too big and the investments too critical for reserve drivers to take it sitting down.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT