Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul (LEFT) says Formula 1 drivers who refuse outright to help bring in sponsorship for teams are “almost irresponsible.”
He emphasized that he was not demanding that all F1 drivers paid for their seats, but reckons racers have a duty to help their teams in the current economic climate.
“For me drivers are just an extra assistance to see those commercial opportunities that can be generated either by them or us,” Abiteboul declared. “It is not that you have paying drivers or non-paying drivers.
“Some drivers have made it very public — and it annoys us — that they will not make any form of contribution, which honestly I do not like because everyone is making a contribution. For instance Fernando [Alonso] and some of the sponsors who have been believing in him and following him since the start of his career.
“Almost all the drivers have a feeling that there must be some form of contribution that they make beyond their sporting duties. That is why drivers saying, ‘I am not a paying driver, I don’t want to be one of those,’ is almost irresponsible because we are investing massive money to create value around those people and around those drivers.
“So, for me it is only fair that drivers do make a contribution, not [necessarily] a financial contribution, but at least assist and create opportunities for the teams to generate value. It is a bit more complex than people tend to sometimes summarize. Yes, we will be expecting that the drivers help, but not necessarily by bringing money.”
CATERHAM “EXTREMELY ATTRACTIVE” FOR SPONSORS
When Caterham started in F1 as Team Lotus in 2010, it paid salaries to race-winning drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. Its 2013 drivers Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic’s deals both had commercial elements.
Abiteboul admitted that Caterham faced a difficult financial situation going into the 2014 rule change having lost 10th place in the constructors’ championship to Marussia, but was optimistic about its sponsorship prospects.
“We have a season that is going to be more expensive, we have prize money that is going down, we have expectations to move up the grid,” he said. “There is still a lot of interest for what we are, as a project.
“The Caterham project is something that is extremely attractive and actually I am very positively surprised by the interest that is generated and the belief that people continue to have in us, even after four years. That is why it is important to deliver. With just a little bit more performance, we will have fantastic commercial opportunities.”