Curious rage against an obvious machine

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Test Three - Day 1 -  Barcelona, Spain

Amidst all the Twitter noise of teams posting pictures of cars being rolled in and out of garages at Barcelona yesterday one F1 tweet stood out.

Rob Cregan, son of former Yas Marina and current Sochi Circuit boss Richard, and a decent former GP3 driver posted the following in response to news that his 2012 Ocean Racing Technology team-mate Carmen Jordá had landed a role as development driver at Lotus:

“Carmen Jordá couldn’t develop a roll of film, let alone a hybrid F1 car, F1 is about talent not money and nagging up fake positions”.

It was, by any standards, a superbly pithy put down and gave the F1 media a great story to drape around Lotus’ signing of a driver about whom the best they could say was “she will offer a fresh perspective”.

The only problem with Rob’s excellent riposte – distilled further to a simple “LOL” from GP3 racer Richie Stanaway – is that it’s unfortunately a bit wide of the mark.

Not in terms of Jordá’s qualifications (her racing record of a best finish of 17th in 14 GP3 outings last year says much but, as has been pointed out elsewhere, Dean Stoneman’s late-season victory in the same car says more) but in the accuracy of the second part of his tweet, for actually it is all about money and very little about talent.

Really, what are they getting upset about?

It’s easy to understand why her GP3 rivals are getting exercised about her appointment. These are, after all, a collection of thrusting young hopefuls with some admirable racing credentials behind them. But really, what are they getting upset about?

The presence of cash-rich drivers in supporting roles at F1 teams is nothing new. Indeed, gratefully receiving the tokens of a group of starry-eyed (and conveniently monied) token racers has been the lifeblood of every racing series since time immemorial and from the moment a doting daddy opens his wallet to secure that first step into single-seaters.

Indeed, in many junior categories it is standard operating procedure to run with the talent in one car, a bright prospect in a second and the money in a largely ignored third car. Why would modern Formula One, in which costs are crippling and sponsors hard to find, and where wealthy dilettantes regularly form an orderly queue at team factory gates, be any different? We’ve been here before and we will be here again – many, many times.

In these straitened times, in which all bar a few teams are struggling to keep head above water, Lotus cannot be expected to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when that particular horse has been backed by some of the sport’s grandest grandees. Financially and politically it just makes plain good sense.

It’s also a wonder that people are getting upset about the driver development role Jordá is occupying. So far it appears that the deal, for 2015, will entitle her to a few goes a simulator, a presence at races and the chance to wear the team shirt now and then.


The team’s statement suggested she will at some point get to drive the E23, but there was no mention of where and when this might be. It seems safe to imagine it won’t be on a Friday morning of a grand prix weekend but more likely will be at one of the promotional events with a current car now allowed under the Sporting Regulations – unless of course the finance involved is hefty enough to have written a Friday run into her contract.

Finally, there is an odd sense that the amount of opprobrium being heaped in Jordá’s direction is somewhat disproportionate, even given her race record. Over the past number of years we have seen any number of frankly dubious racing wannabes using gilded ladders to help them clamber over the F1 ramparts but these assaults barely result in more than an arched eyebrow. Of course, the vast majority of these were male. Jordá by contrast is a pretty woman, so is obviously only being hired because of her looks - and the shed load of very pretty money being handed over in her name. Well duh, Sherlock, this is kind of how this stuff goes. Sure it’s not ideal, but the role is non-specific, the intention fairly apparent and the benefits clear to both sides. There really is nothing to get very upset about here.

It’s likely that Carmen Jordá isn’t the most talented driver ever to secure a team role in an F1 paddock that frequently seems awash with the minimally-gifted, but her presence in the Lotus garage of a weekend, at the occasional static show car event or even behind the wheel at a promotional outing doesn’t herald the end of F1 or even a descent into a dark age of madness, chaos and slightly more believable shampoo ads than those done by former Lotus acting giant Kimi Raikkonen. No, it’s simply more proof that this is the pass the sport has come to in its desperate search for any scrap of funding.

By Justin Hynes