Former Mercedes tester Sam Bird says F1 teams no longer scour the world’s top racing categories in search of the best possible drivers.
28 today, the Briton was until recently a Mercedes simulator driver and a GP2 winner — a resume that in decades past would have seen him knocking loudly on the door of the grand prix grid.
Instead, he is a frontrunner in the new Formula E series, on a grid filled with former F1 stars like Jarno Trulli and Jean-Eric Vergne, and F1 nearlymen like Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa.
Bird is currently third in the standings, having won in Malaysia, but ahead of the forthcoming race in Buenos Aires he is not expecting the eyes of formula one to be on him.
“Formula one won’t look at this and think ‘Gosh he’s a good driver, I’ve got to have him’,” he told The Times.
“Unless you’ve got a bottomless pit of money, they don’t really look at you anymore.”
Bird, however, thinks that although the F1 teams are being forced to weigh money with talent, the strategy could ultimate backfire for the sport.
“Formula one needs youth in the long run because there’s only so many years that Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are going to be around and when they’re gone, who are we going to end up with?” he said.
“The big teams spend so much money to get the points to get the prize money that makes them richer. It’s just an endless circle in favour of the big teams, so the small teams don’t have any choice but to take on drivers who have 15 to 20 million euros.
“There are some drivers, whether it’s myself or drivers in GP2 or world endurance series, who have had potential or results required to warrant a chance but haven’t even had a sniff of it due to lack of funding,” Bird added.
“It’s very frustrating but that’s the way it is and it’s not going to change.” (GMM)