I’m sure that I will be in the minority with my view on this subject (as I am on DRS) but I feel that some of the current ‘pay drivers’ are unfairly labelled with this tag.
Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna have all been vilified by the fact that they come with corporate backing.
The two South Americans will drive for Williams in 2012, Maldonado, racing for the Grove based squad for the second season. The negative press surrounding Venezuelan’s rise to F1 were exacerbated by the fact that he was replacing the highly rated, Nico Hulkenburg after one season.
Many saw this as a move dictated by money over talent. Williams had lost several sponsors over the winter at the end of the 2010 season and basic book keeping dictated they needed to find more income. When the two were team mates in GP2, it was the young German who came out on top with Pastor taking two more seasons to clinch the title.
The deal with PDVSA didn’t come with the signature of Maldonado as many people think. In reality, the deal with the state owned oil company stipulates that as part of the contract, a Venezuelan driver will drive one of the cars. Williams obviously did their home work and with Maldonado being crowned as GP2 champion in 2010, he was the obvious choice to offer the race seat to.
Bruno Senna, twelve months later replaces his compatriot Rubens Barrichello for the second seat at Williams. The nephew of three times world champion, Ayrton comes with significant backing and a race winning pedigree of his own and finishing runner up in the GP2 championship in 2008.
With CVs like this, both Pastor and Bruno aren’t like the pay drivers of old, both are race and title winning drivers. Both are hugely marketable in their homeland and beyond. Realistically, they are more like (but not exactly like) Fernando Alonso. The two time champion brings with him a significant amount of sponsorship from the Spanish banking giants, Santander.
Yes, Williams have both Bruno and Pastor behind the wheel of the FW34 this year by enlarge thanks to the sponsors they bring. But if they wasn’t there, perhaps Williams wouldn’t be around for very much longer! That is something no racing fan wants to see.