Occasional HRT driver Christian Klien has claimed that the globalisation of Formula 1 is making it harder for drivers based in the sport’s more traditional markets to secure places on the grid.
Having made a couple of impressive performances in the latter half of the season with the struggling backmarker outfit, the Austrian is hopeful he can secure a full-time berth on the grid in 2011, but acknowledged that he faces an uphill battle, particularly with a raft of pay-drivers knocking on many teams’ doors.
Klien is of course referring to the young German driver turfed from Williams after what many felt was an impressive debut season with the Grove squad, which is rumoured to be taking on the heavily-backed Pastor Maldonado for 2011.
“In my own case, I have some options,” he told the newspaper. “The most obvious one of course is HRT, who are on the verge of establishing themselves as a serious competitor, even if there are some setbacks from time to time.
“In February there was not much of a team and I would not have believed I would contest three grands prix this year. And there’s still some time until March,” he added.
HRT recently announced it had secured the supply of Williams’ gearbox units for 2011, although it was disappointed to find out that Toyota had pulled the pin on a technical collaboration with the Spanish outfit for next year that could have seen the Colin Kolles-run squad using Toyota’s never-raced TF110 chassis.
Much of the problems faced by many drivers knocking on the doors to Formula 1 – including the likes of Nick Heidfeld, Paul di Resta, Gary Paffett and Klien himself – are largely geographic, he feels.
The changing face of Formula 1: Changing economic pressures and the broader appeal of F1 has seen the sport expand to take on drivers from countries not typically – or of late – associated with motorsport.
Pictured (L-R): Alex Yoong (Malaysia); Karun Chandhok (India); Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela); Rodolfo Gonzales (Mexico); Vladimir Arabadzhiev (Bulgaria).
“F1 has internationalised very quickly and previously as a Briton, an Italian, a Frenchman, you had a good chance,” he added.
“Today there are more cockpits from before, but the driver market is being fed from many more countries; Russia, India, the southeast Asian region, and now probably Korea and China.
“And if you’re the eighth German, then it is very difficult. Look at France and Italy – twenty years ago there were ten of each. And today?” he asks.
Oh the times, they are a-changing…