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Talent should outweigh sponsor money, says Soucek
Former Virgin Racing reserve driver Andy Soucek has criticised the current Formula One set-up as favouring sponsor money over driver talent.
With more and more new teams putting a greater emphasis on drivers carrying heavy financial investment, Soucek admitted it was now a 'problem' for new drivers without such backing to break into F1.
Soucek won the F2 championship in 2009 but during the course of the 2010 season gave up his role as a test driver with Virgin. Several drivers, including Pastor Maldonado and Sakon Yamamoto are understood to bring significant financial backing and Renault's Vitaly Petrov even enjoys the support of Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.
"As a driver you've always needed sponsors and support, but now I see a problem," Soucek told AS newspaper. "In the current situation with reduced marketing and sponsorship in the world, there are other drivers that are backed politically or even by their countries. It means the prices [for F1 seats] have gone above what is 'normal', and the teams desperately need the money.
"You win in F3, F2, you do a test with Williams, you drive in GP2, Superleague, but compared to others who are already in F1 you see they have no such achievements. In the end it's not important only to be good."
Despite his reservations about his chances of breaking through against more heavily funded F1 hopefuls, Soucek has not given up and hopes that his talent will be a deciding factor.
"We have to be patient, because I think the four or five [heavily backed] drivers I am referring to will need to show their talent, not just their finances. Those guys are coming first and from there the teams will look for better opportunities.
"I am negotiating with several teams, some to be the main driver and others to be the third driver. I will give everything to get to F1, but there are other options."