Daniel Ricciardo issues defence of pay drivers who reach Formula 1 level

Daniel Ricciardo in the rain with a McLaren umbrella. Japan October 2022 Credit: Alamy
Daniel Ricciardo in the rain with a McLaren umbrella. Japan October 2022 Credit: Alamy

Daniel Ricciardo has said so-called ‘pay drivers’ don’t deserve the disrespect they get, explaining that they still have to be “pretty gnarly”.

The Australian driver believes that ‘pay drivers’ (ie. drivers who may not be the absolute best drivers on the grid, but offer financial incentives to teams for hiring them through their own wealth, or that of sponsors or family) get a bad reputation from fans of the sport.

Ricciardo appeared on  Your Mom’s House podcast, where he joined hosts Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky in a discussion about his own F1 career and some of the intricacies of the sport.

The conversation turned to the topic of pay drivers, as the hosts poked fun at the drivers who are on the grid ‘due to their daddies buying them a team’ – clearly meant as a dig against the likes of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, whose father Lawrence purchased the former Racing Point squad in 2018.

Another example of a so-called pay driver would be Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, whose personal sponsorship roster helped him to a seat with the Grove-based squad for the past three seasons.

Daniel Ricciardo: Funding is needed from day one

But Ricciardo believes drivers whose progress into F1 has been helped by their financial backing don’t deserve the criticism they get, as they still must have almost all of the same level of talent and on-track success to reach the level of an F1 driver.

“I’ll say, look… I’m trying to like be respectful as well,” Ricciardo mused on the topic.

“To get into the sport, and not even F1, just even to go go-karting as a kid – you need to spend thousands as opposed to hundreds if you’re playing football, you know, a pair of boots and that’s it pretty much.

“So you’d certainly need some kind of funding, whether it’s from family or sponsors. If the family’s done it all, then like sometimes people might be like, ‘that kid, whatever’.”

Ricciardo made the point that the driver still has to have plenty of pace, as the sponsors behind that driver wouldn’t stick around if the required talent level wasn’t there to justify their investments.

“At the end of the day, if you’re driving, once you get to like F2 or F1, even if someone’s paid your way there, you’re still putting your body on the line and all that,” he said.

“So they’re certainly at that level, there’s still an element of respect for sure. Because not everyone can do it. Like maybe their path was easier than others, but they’re still pretty gnarly.

“A second in our sport is so much, like if you were just constantly a second off or two seconds off, then sponsors would pull out. You need to be at a certain level. You need to hang, otherwise at some point, it won’t last.”

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