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5 successful F1 drivers you never knew started as pay drivers - Slide 5 of 5


Over the years, there have been several successful F1 drivers including the likes of Fangio, Lauda and Schumacher, who although initially had to begin as pay drivers but eventually moved further up the grid on the basis of their talent alone.

In common parlance, F1 is considered to be the epitome of motorsport, a sport where the quickest drivers in the world go head to head each year in order to determine the ultimate world champion.

But with F1 also being a commercial enterprise, corporate sponsors have had key influence on teams on numerous occasions. Sometimes, this influence comes in the form of financially backed drivers, who make their way into the sport majorly due to the backing of such corporate organizations.

Such drivers have now been termed as pay drivers. Now as the term itself suggests, it does bring into mind a negative perception about such a grand and successful sport, which has subsisted for more than half a century. But with the teams undergoing financial miseries for a while, such drivers are starting to get more and more prominent every year.

It is indeed portraying the sport in a bad light, as through financial sponsors, as even drivers who are not talented enough are making their way into F1, thereby decreasing the overall quality of drivers competing in the sport.

But the pay driver concept doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It has been witnessed time and again that financial backing has on numerous occasions fast tracked the career of talented drivers, who without this backing would have found it difficult to get into such an expensive sport only on the grounds of talent.

More importantly, the financial backing only provided a boost to drivers' careers, but it was on the basis of their talent alone that they carved their way forward in the sport. This essentially differentiates them from those drivers who primarily rely on funding to keep their Formula 1 careers alive.

On the basis of the above, here is a look at the 5 most successful F1 drivers who may have required financial help to get into the sport, but got through it majorly on the basis of their talent and skill, moving forward to eventually achieve unparalleled greatness.

#5 Mark Webber

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Mark Webber Silverstone 2010 British GP Red Bull

Although he never clinched the world title, ‘Aussie Grit’ earned enough accolades during his career to earn the reputation equivalent of a World Champion.

Almost throughout his decade long career, Webber never got drive with a competitive team, and when he did get one, it was all too late as the Australian was already past his prime and with a young and supremely talented Sebastian Vettel as teammate didn’t help his cause either.

But despite all these hurdles, Webber had a solid career during which he earned 9 wins, 13 poles and 42 podiums, almost clinching the title in 2010.

But, before all this happened, Webber had found it difficult to get into F1, with even a brief foray into sportscar racing with Mercedes in late 1990s. After a failed attempt with Arrows F1 Team, it was in 2002 at the age of 25 that he got his breakthrough in F1 through Minardi.

This was majorly made possible through the assistance of Flavio Briatore and his personal sponsors from Australia - Fosters and Telstra.

The team was pretty much a back marker, but it had provided the required footing for the Australian to establish his name in the sport, albeit a bit late compared to the other drivers of his generation.

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