The announcement of Luis Razia as second driver at Marussia means that the two halves of the 2013 F1 grid have a very different character; with stability in the front half and wholesale change in the second half of the grid, which features five drivers who have never started a Grand Prix before.
Whereas among Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes and Force India there are currently only two driver changes; Hamilton to Mercedes, replaced at McLaren by Perez and a new driver at Force India.
The other five teams have seen enormous change.
Sauber has two new drivers, Hulkenberg has started 39 races and Gutierrez 0
Toro Rosso Retains the same drivers – Ricciardo has just 31 starts and Vergne 20
Williams has Maldonado with 39 starts and Bottas with 0
Caterham has Pic with 20 starts and Van der Garde with 0
and Marussia has Chilton and Razia who have no GP experience.
This in itself is interesting, but of course new blood has to come in and they have to start somewhere.
But, going deeper, this year’s grid, especially the bottom half, is a sign of the changing times, particularly with experienced fee-earning drivers like Kovalainen, Glock and Kobayashi making way for less experienced drivers with budget; this is partly forced by the recession of the last four years, but also by the costs the teams are incurring with a massive set of rule changes for 2014.
Many teams have been forced to take drivers with budget ahead of drivers who need to be paid, in order to build up a war chest to make a 2014 car and buy a supply of the expensive new 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines.
It could be avoided if the teams could get their act together and agree a cost control mechanism, which meant that the teams could survive on their share of the sport’s commercial revenues plus some sponsorship and could work with the sport to ensure that the best drivers available are coming through the junior categories and into their cars.
Sadly F1 does not work like that.
What will all of this do to the racing? Time will tell.
However, as we posted here a few months ago, where F1 must be very careful over the next few years, is that it continues to have a conveyor belt of superstar drivers, drivers with international box office appeal, for the future.
Vettel, Alonso, Button, Raikkonen, Schumacher – all made their debuts with the teams listed above (or antecedents of them e.g. Minardi/Toro Rosso)
How many of the drivers outlined above in the lower half of the grid can be considered possible stars of the future? Drivers who inspire the public (like in the photo above) driver whom the public will pay good money to watch, both in the grandstands and on their Pay TV services?
Possibly Bottas, but beyond that?