The news that Timo Glock had left the Marussia team for money reasons came as a huge shock to most people. Despite three fruitless years racing towards the back of the grid, Glock is still widely regarded in the sport for his performances while at Toyota in 2008 and 2009, when he regularly troubled the frontrunners despite having an inferior car at his disposal.
It would appear that Glock’s fate was sealed by Marussia’s failure to secure tenth place in the constructors’ championship last season. By losing out to Caterham in the final race the team lost an estimated $10m in prize money, which for a small privateer outfit like Marussia is a significant amount of their operating budget, which meant they had to find the funds from somewhere else. With Glock being paid a salary by the team, and the team’s second driver Max Chilton bringing sponsorship, the German driver was the only candidate for the chop.
The timing of this does seem incredibly strange given that the season ended almost two months ago now. If Marussia had made the change straight after the final race of last year it would still have been harsh on Timo, but it would have been understandable given the money the team had just lost by losing that all important tenth place in Brazil. To do it with just two weeks until the launch of the new car not only gives Glock next to no opportunity to find a seat with another team, but also allows any replacement precious little time to fully integrate before the first race.
It would seem therefore that another driver has gone to Marussia and offered them significant funds in exchange for a race seat, the funds they lost out on by failing to finish tenth last year. It seems the only logical explanation for a change of driver at this stage of the game.
Given the team’s Russian connections it’s reasonable to assume the driver in question could be Vitaly Petrov. Petrov’s seat at Caterham is not secure and despite rumours towards the end of last season that he had lost his funding, more recent stories seem to suggest that he has now found backing. Furthermore, with Russia set to host a Grand Prix from 2014 it would make sense for this move to happen, not only to guarantee there’s a Russian driver on the grid for that race but the only Russian team in Formula One also becomes more financially secure with it.
It’s an ever increasing and depressing trend in modern Grand Prix racing that we are seeing hugely talented racing drivers losing their drives in favour of those whose main gifts are in the art of fundraising. Glock is just the latest driver to join the list of names on the sidelines for the pure reason that his pockets aren’t deep enough. Kamui Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen are just other names to fall victim to the same thing over the winter, with Nick Heidfeld another man who has been forced out for a driver with dosh.
Pay drivers aren’t as big a problem as they were 20 or so years ago. The dark days of Deletraz and the ineptitude of Inoue are long behind the sport, and this new breed of racers who are buying their way into F1 do at least have a modicum of talent, Messrs Perez and Maldonado being good examples, but Formula One is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport. It should be about the best drivers, in the best cars, built by the best designers in the world. It shouldn’t be about how much money Daddy’s got or whether you’re best mates with Mr. Telecommunications, it should be about talent. Nothing more, nothing less.
As for Glock, he looks set to spend the year racing in DTM. It may not be the summit of his sport, but it’s a highly competitive series that will allow him to show his talent. Something that Formula One failed him on.