First off, I encourage you to take a look at Todd’s piece on the phenomena of paid drivers.
I can wait. I’m very patient.
OK, so based on that, have a look at part of a Q&A up at the official Formula 1 site. It is with Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. Let’s cut right to it:
Q: Monisha, it seems that just as Sauber were making serious progress, you are having to start all over again in 2013 with two new drivers and two new driving styles to come to terms with. How can a smaller team best deal with that?
Monisha Kaltenborn: It is not such a radical change compared to some of the previous years. With Esteban (Gutierrez) we have a driver who we know, which makes a difference. We have not only followed and supported him, we have also worked with him effectively during his young driver days, so you do have an advantage over somebody you don’t know at all. With Esteban we know his strengths and weaknesses, as we have seen him develop over the years. He, on the other hand, knows by now how the team works and what we expect. That makes a big difference, so you are spared the phase of getting to know each other. With him it is about moving on to the next phase where he is now the race driver, which he wasn’t until now. With Nico (Hulkenberg), of course you have a new situation, but here we have an advantage compared with previous driver line-ups in that he is already an experienced driver. We realised that when he came to us, that the adaptation process is much shorter as both sides know very well what they want and you just have to find your common ground. So no, the change is not as radical this year as it may sound.
Q: Sauber have nurtured many young talents who have then left the team. In other high-profile sports transfer fees are paid. Should we have something like this in Formula One racing?
MK: No, I wouldn’t really support such an idea from our perspective. For us, the push would rather be on ourselves: to develop a car that is competitive enough so that drivers stay with us. We should be competitive enough that drivers see their future with us. What we have already achieved is drivers coming to us – we don’t go out looking for drivers. All drivers who have been through our team have all come to us. That already is quite an asset for the team. Now we need to take the next step.
Q: Can small teams afford to sign young talent if that talent doesn’t come with money?
MK: All these discussions about ‘pay drivers’ have lost ground a bit for me. What we see is that many partners or sponsors support drivers from the very beginning. A good example is Sergio (Perez). He has been part of the Escuderia Telmex, which is a racing school. They have been supporting him from the very beginning and it is natural that when he enters the pinnacle of motorsports, they come along. You have so many top drivers out there who have also brought along their partners who have supported them right from the beginning. You don’t talk about pay drivers in lower series because it is normal that a driver has partners that support him. So why not use the same standard in Formula One? Then you wouldn’t have all these pay driver discussions. Sure, it would be good for Formula One to look more closely at the costs. We have to do something. Over the years we see that the economic climate is also getting to us. And not just to the smaller teams, but the whole sport. In this environment we cannot expect to always have a high level of income from the commercial rights holder. We really have to find a way to react to this.
And there’s this:
Q: Kamui Kobayashi has made way for rookie Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber this year. Kamui was very inventive with his online campaign to get some backing behind him. Were you surprised that no sponsor was found for him, the most successful Japanese F1 driver in history?
MK: Yes, it was surprising. Kamui, when he came to us, came with no sponsors, nothing. But we were convinced of his talent and it was, for us, the right step. He showed some great performances with us: his podium in Suzuka was such an emotional affair – he moved that whole crowd in a way I have never seen before. He was a great team player – he did so much for the team spirit – so it is surprising when such a pleasant person like him cannot get any support from such a motorsport-loving nation like Japan. This again should be a sort of warning that we maybe need to change something. When you have a race in a country and you have a ‘local’ hero it helps Formula One to be successful there. But I have also to clarify that we never made any promises to Kamui for 2013.
Aside from the obvious drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, etc., I’m not sure there’s been a “younger” driver more popular here at F1B than Kobayashi. Y’all (and we all) loved his aggressive style, well, when he wasn’t running into other cars. Is his absence the biggest surprise of the season? And should we nominate her for bravado award? She essentially said, “It’s a shame Kamui didn’t get a drive but don’t blame us even though we were his employer.”
Kaltenborn talks more generally about Sauber and its upcoming season prospects. You team fans can check that out at the link above.