F1: Williams becomes a pay driver team

Williams has announced that Bruno Senna will partner Pastor Maldonado in 2012. Essentially they are becoming an all pay driver team as Maldonado’s choice was based on the funding brought from PDVSA (the Venezuelan oil company) and Senna’s choice is not unrelated to the fact that he brings valuable sponsors to the team. Williams could have kept Rubens Barrichello or hired Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi (before he became Red Bull’s reserve driver). There are identified issues with Barrichello (damaged relationship with the team after a dismal 2011) and Sutil (called to court following an alleged assault) but overall the team appears to have prioritised money over talent.

This is a worrying trend and may be another significant  step in the team’s structural decline. This is not unseen in Formula 1. Lotus won races in 1987, hired world champion Nelson Piquet in 1988 and by 1994 was gone, having employed numerous pay drivers during their last year. Brabham scored points in 1989, and by mid 1992 had left F1. How long will Williams survive?

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