Johansson ‘sad’ to see best talents miss out on F1 chance

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Ex-Ferrari and McLaren racer Stefan Johansson says it is “sad” to see the brightest up-and-coming drivers not being able to show their worth in F1 due to a lack of budget.

Only two seats remain available on the 2016 grid, both at Manor. The Indonesian government recently announced it was ready to shell out £10m to place Rio Haryanto, a strong indication of the sum needed to learn the ropes at the back of the field.

Johansson explains how attending the 2015 post-season GP2 tests – where he was chaperoning two-time Macau Grand Prix winner and fellow Swede Felix Rosenqvist – made him acutely aware of the challenge young racers are presented with.

“I talked to several driver managers and F1 managers while in Abu Dhabi and it seems the general consensus is that most of them have in fact given up on the idea of pushing their drivers all the way to F1,” Johansson wrote in his latest blog entry.

“The path to get there is too expensive and it’s getting more and more difficult to find sponsorship for both the teams and the drivers. Instead people are starting to focus on DTM and sports cars as alternative routes for a career as a professional driver.

“It’s a sad situation when even the people in F1 admit that the best drivers don’t have a chance to ever drive an F1 car, or at least not race one.

Stoffel Vandoorne absolutely cleaned up [GP2] this year and will end up doing Super Formula in Japan next year under a testing contract [with McLaren-Honda]. But those contracts have little meaning these days.”

With GP2 costs in the region of $2m (£1.37m) per year, traveling Stateside might just be the best option for drivers looking for opportunities in single-seaters according to Johansson.

“The only open wheel series that makes any sense in my opinion right now is IndyCar. There is a good ladder system in place in America where the winner in the Indy Lights Championship will get a good portion of the budget towards an Indycar program plus a guaranteed drive in the Indy 500 as the reward for winning the series.”

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