Stoddart defends 'pay driver' decision

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has defended his decision to take on drivers who can bring financial backing to the team, saying they are not just 'pay drivers'. Teams have been criticized in the past for hiring anyone who can effectively buy the race seat but have no real talent behind the wheel. Stoddart said he wanted worthy drivers but has never hidden the fact that Minardi needs money as well.

Paul Stoddart.
Photo by Mark Gledhill.
"I think it's perhaps wrong to call them pay drivers," he remarked recently in an interview with Ford racing. "I had at one point 21 names on my list of very talented individuals. We made no secrets of the fact that we needed budget to guarantee that we were going to be competing in Australia and every other event next year."

"We made it clear that no driver would get a seat in the team unless they were able to bring substantial sponsorship to the team. That is a vast difference between somebody who has to bring money to get his drive. I'm talking about guys that are fully talented and worthy of their seat but they are having to bring sponsorship because we have a commercial need."

New Minardi signing Justin Wilson had to raise a reported ?2million to secure his drive, which he did by selling shares in his future. The remaining race seat with the team is yet to be decided but Jos Verstappen and Christijan Albers are front runners -- the outcome more than likely depends on who can raise the most finances.