Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Evolution of Racer in Salaries and Sponsorships

With income attached to advertising dollars, driver salaries are directly tied to the popularity of the sport. For those with talent, it's a natural, step-by-step process.

As I stepped back into motorsports scene. The questions from everyone are getting more and more complicated. Years ago, people would to ask me “When will you publish my articles”? Or alternatively “Hey, remember those press releases”  

Now, people would to ask me “what is your 2017 plan for your two racers?, will they be racing in international series? , How much do they earn?”

First comes the desire to drive racing cars. Then, with a verifiable display of talent and success, comes the desire to get paid to drive those racing cars.
The desire part is easy. And the getting paid part? It gets harder every year, even for proven winners and past champions.

It was a very different era, tobacco money was a big part of things; it paid for so much of the racing and as a knock-on effect, the driver salaries. But with all of the sporting bans on tobacco advertising, you really saw all that money dry up rather quickly. And, to be fair, it was never really replaced.

I learned of one race-winning Series driver, a person driving for a well-funded team who had been making 5,000,000 per year to ply his trade, which seems like a paltry sum with the risks involved of racing at over 300kmph on circuits and north of 180 kmph on some road and street courses between 16 and 19 times a year. 

Tobacco makers have been barred from sponsorship nearly everywhere. What hits closest to home for us is motorsports. But why were they banned? They gave good salaries to drivers. Some notion that it'll make people healthier? Well, it's bullshit and we need them back. Now.

First, let me name all the cons that come with letting cigarette companies sponsor motorsports:...ummmm. Oh, maybe some people will choose on their own to begin smoking even though they know all of the health risks?
Ok, with that out of the way, let me name some of the specialists.

Budgets: Cigarette companies make boat loads of cash. Boat loads. Their investment in motorsports led to unprecedented levels of growth and investment. I have no doubt that Formula One is on the level that it is now thanks to the investment and promotion that was afforded to the series through decades of tobacco involvement. 

Drivers: With big budgets came amazing drivers. Ever wish that we didn't need pay drivers in any series? Cigarettes are the answer. Teams would have money to hire who they pleased, not every dicks that comes to the door with a bucket of cash and the unique ability to crash into everything. It wouldn't eliminate pay drivers, but it sure would slow down the epidemic.

Liveries: Holy crap. The liveries. Marlboro McLaren and Team Penske. John Player Special Team Lotus. Gitanes Ligier. Rothmans Porsche and Williams. Mild Seven Benetton. These are the liveries you remember when you think of motorsports. Now what do we have? Energy drinks and banks. 

Lifestyle: Smoking is dangerous. Racing is dangerous. If ever there was a sport that cigarettes could be related to, it's motorsports. No matter what safety advances there have been in racing, it's still an unbelievably dangerous undertaking, like smoking. But the drivers are so health conscious these days that you won't see Vettel lighting up a Virginia Slim after a race win or Button taking a drag of a West when he's passed by Kevin Magnussen. However, you will see Kimi Raikkonen constantly smoking Marlboro Reds because that's just what I imagine Kimi would do.

A cigarette sponsorship of a racing team does not immediately mean that you need to start smoking. You are still allowed to think for yourself. See, you have a brain which allows you to have independent thought. You don't need to be part of a collective that sees a cigarette sponsorship and then goes off and smokes themselves to death. Nope. You can do whatever you want!

For all the risks that come with the job, you'd like to see guys making more than a greater value for what they must do to earn that money. You could say the salaries reflect the times, but that doesn't change the inherent danger in what we do. Those two points seem to be going farther away than coming together.

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