October 26, 2011

Who's your daddy? How to get a seat in Formula 1.

Money makes the wheels go round, we all know that and we know that there are two basic paths to top tier motor racing, talent and funding. Now, if you have talent you might, if you are lucky and extremely good, get funding but if you have enough funding you will certainly get a seat somewhere.

The top talents on F1, Alonso, Hamilton, Schumacher, Montoya none of them came from big money, all worked hard and put themselves in the position to be noticed and funded. But they are the exception, for every one of them there many more drivers who are buying their time in the show.

It's not a modern phenomenon, the sport started with wealthy "gentlemen racers" but in the modern era, drivers have tended to hide the source of their funding preferring to give the impression they have the seat based on their talent alone.

The numbers give you nosebleed. The path to Formula 1, a season in World Series by Renault 3.5 will cost $1 million and GP2, 2 to 3 million for a top team, if it wasn't for wealthy pay drivers, the fields would be very, very thin.

This is not discussed much in the racing media so se asked our friend Timur Tsunvazo to look into the background of two current drivers, Vitaly Petrov and Jaime Alguersauri.

Man and machine. A synergy the makes racing the most electrifying kind of sport. We can spend a lifetime arguing what’s more important, the man or the car, but in the real world, money is way more crucial. While there are no non-millionaires in modern F1, GP2 or even WSR, drivers do their best to hide it, because nobody wants to be evaluated based on money first. But of course, many are.

The father of Formula 1's youngest driver Jaime Alguersuari – Jaime Alguersuari Senior – is a top-ranked multi-millionaire from Spain. He used to race bikes in 1970s and later could also be seen on the grid of F3 and Formula Ford.
Alguersuari Sr. never won any title but went on to become a successful businessman. Today he owns World Series by Renault (consists of Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, WSR 3.5 & Eurocup Megane Trophy) which gave us Kubica, Vettel, Ricciardo and some others. A leading media magnate in Spain he is president of RPM Racing (a large-scale company responsible for the majority of motorsport events in Spain, http://www.rpmracing.es/default03.php) as well.
No surprise the Spaniard has easily managed to pay €2 million for his son’s first two races for STR Ferrari back in 2009 (with a friendly assistance of Repsol) and protects Jr.’s seat over the following years with no consistency from the 21-year-old.

Now, on to Russia, may be the only place in the world where you can spend time in jail and then become a multimillionaire, meet in person with Vladimir Putin, get his comprehensive support and finally get your son racing in FIA Formula 1 Championship!

Let’s talk about Alexander Petrov, Vitaly’s father. Officially, he is a principal at customs house in Vyborg, Russia (18 miles from the Finnish border and 600 miles from Moscow), who «mortgaged all his property to secure a loan and let his talented son take a seat at Lotus Renault F1 Team»… In the real world, according to the few media existing in Russia, Alexander Petrov is Member of the Board at Vyborg Shipyard & its co-owner with 3.45% share. The company, established in 1948, has over 1500 employees, net profit about $400 million a year and boasts a good client in Gazprom (the largest industrial giant in Russia) which recently ordered the development of two drilling rigs for as much as $2 billion. In one of the earliest TV interviews in 2010 Alexander Petrov personally declared that he spent over €20 million for his son’s early career steps (including GP2 and GP2 Asia), then «took out a loan and borrowed money from my good friends including Ilya Traber» in order to pay €15 million for Vitaly's debut.
Thanks to Putin, Petrov Sr. refilled his cash flow later the same year with a huge contribution from VAZ (the manufacturer you may know by LADA brand) whose management was ordered by the prime-minister to do so as a favor for the participation in multibillion dollar anti recession governmental campaign. Now you know what LADA and Vyborg Shipyard brand logos exactly do on both Lotus Renault cars.

By the way, If you were wondered who those kind «friends» are, according to media, Ilya Traber is the russian mafia godfather in Saint-Peterburg who unofficially owns the whole antiques market and the largest seaport in the city.

Like we said, Money makes the wheels go round and F1's a fast crowd. Briatore? An amateur compared to some!



  1. What about the other Lotus Renault driver, that Bruno Senna character, what's his backing look like (besides being a Senna off course...)

  2. And that, for Alonso Santander does not pay? Times are changing ...

  3. Fascinating, thanks for that AC. I'd like to think if someone spent €20m on my early career, I almost certainly would've won the Triple Crown by now! :)

    I mean, seriously.. €20m?? There's that age-old debate that only the people who are very motivated by (and stick with) a sport will be any good at it - i.e. how many people would be better than the likeable Russian Petrov if they had seen that sort of cash thrown at their dream. It goes for anything, I guess... maybe I'd be a champion ping-pongist and you'd be the world's greatest lion tamer. Who knows?

  4. For a breathe of fresh air check out Robert Wickens, WSR 2011 champ with next to no money compared to these big players, hopefully we will see this 'poor' but very talent guy in F1 soon!

  5. >> Anonymous
    Bruno Senna has a strong financial support from different brazilian backers, you can't underestimate what his last name really means for his country, but he pretty much deserves it. It can be proved by those several contracts (including EBX, Gilette and more) he signed after the first races for Lotus Renault F1.

    >> spa
    Robert Wickens has a good chance to make it to FIA F1. But he will need money anyway, his title is not enough. Can you remember Mikhail Aleshin (Moscow, Russia) who won 2010 WSR 3.5 Championship? Despite the title he couldn't find enough money to join FIA F1, while Daniel Ricciardo (finished 2010 WSR season at 2nd) is already on the grid alongside other 23 F1 drivers...

    Timur Tsunvazo

  6. yes . . . but sadly F1 is not the only arena of human endeavor where this occurs.


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