HRT: Yamamoto…the €4.6 million man?

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After sitting out for the British Grand Prix while Sakon Yamamoto competed in his ride, it appears that Bruno Senna will be allowed back in the car at HRT for the German Grand Prix this coming weekend. Senna’s teammate, Karun Chandhok, will now sit this one out while Japanese driver Yamamoto takes a turn in his car.

The odd moves took many by surprise even with the rumors of financial difficulties currently being faced by team owner Jose Carabante. It seems that a revolving door for Yamamoto is a good way to supplement the cash flow at HRT as it is rumored to be worth €4.6 million to the team. That’s quite a pay-to-drive lump of cash for eight or so races.

The difference with this move versus the British Grand Prix move is that there is no assurance that Chandhok will be back in the car at the next race like there was with Senna. It seems that Chandhok could very well be done for in F1 and this has many fans upset.

The original intent was to have an Indian driver in the series and while Indian businessman and Force India owner Vijay Mallya suggested there are no Indian drivers good enough to be in the series, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had a new race in India to promote. The solution? Get an Indian driver in F1 anyway. As Hindustan Times points out, the damage is done. Mallya is a well respected businessman in India and his associates and business peers would most likely take his comments at face value. This could have been a part of the difficulty in raising cash for Chandhok to keep going.

It seems the rumor is Chandhok was to be a €7.5 million man and much of that was to be raised throughout the season. It’s now been suggested that this support has not materialized for Chandhok and Yamamoto’s backers have put the cash up so the logical choice is no cash, no ride. Originally Chandhok felt he deserved a ride in F1 but understood the challenges he faced in a new team:

“It’s always been a capital intensive sport. A lot of drivers had more money to offer but were not signed up. You still have to be good.” “This is a far-from-ideal situation. But these are the cards I have been dealt. The point is, whether I can use this foothold to make a career in F1. We had the option of a proven team but could not raise the amount required.”

If Senna can be dumped for a race and Chandhok for the remainder of the season, then one has to assume that Senna has a tight contract that is less likely to be broken regardless of if his support money came through or not. Chandhok may not be int he same situation and it will be interesting to see if any litigation comes from it.

The question has always been, for me at least, is do Indian businesses and businessmen have the interest, capital and reason to invest in their drivers? Chandhok and fellow countryman Narain Karthikeyan have beent he two highest profile drivers from India but Mallya’s comment of ‘no one good enough’ were, from my vantage point, mainly directed at Karthikeyan.

This brings us full circle regarding India and F1. Fleecing the government out of cash to host a race and flogging dollars from promoters to build a track and take a loss is one thing but are the Indian people ready, passionate and excited to have F1 in their country? Does it make a difference to them? It’s not much unlike the United States and their new Austin experiment. The public is not in to the series and the businesses won’t invest in it if they have no return. Ecclestone’s profit-for-one model is a bit heavy handed to American businesses, promoters and fans and I suspect India may well find that sentiment a bitter pill to swallow as well.

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