Feb.25 (GMM) Ferrari has denied that even the great Italian team is now heading down the ‘pay driver’ road.
Outspoken former F1 driver Mark Webber insisted this week that the fact drivers have so readily “paid their way” onto the grid in recent years is “rubbish”.
“That’s not what we want in the sport,” he told the Herald Sun newspaper.
But until now, the concept of taking on drivers who promise vast sums of money and sponsorship has been the reserve of mainly small and struggling teams.
Esteban Gutierrez, for instance, debuted at Sauber with close ties to the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, and logos of the brands Telmex, Telcel and Claro were duly added to the livery of the Swiss-made car.
For 2015, those logos have switched from Sauber to Ferrari, and Gutierrez is now Ferrari’s new official reserve driver.
“I’ve heard and read a lot of criticism because of Esteban’s signing,” Ferrari’s new chief Maurizio Arrivabene, formerly an executive of the Ferrari sponsor Marlboro, is quoted by Speed Week.
“For instance, that he only got his job at Ferrari because of the large budget of America Movil,” he said.
“But that is not true,” Arrivabene insists. “The negotiations with America Movil and Carlos Slim did not involve Esteban, because I myself am friends with Carlos.
“I called him and we agreed,” he claimed.
Arrivabene thinks Ferrari can now do a better job of preparing Gutierrez for his return to the race grid.
“Esteban came into formula one too early,” he said.
“I do not want to be disrespectful, but he also came to a team that had a lot of problems. That (Sauber) was not the place for him.
“These two aspects must be taken into account, if one wants to evaluate his performance.
“Among other reasons, we have signed Esteban because he knows our engine of last year. He works at Maranello every day and starts now by attending a day of filming with us and working in Barcelona.
“This is the right way to make a young driver familiar with formula one,” Arrivabene added.