Martin Brundle fears pay drivers are "dangerously close" to dominating the F1 grid but concedes the money has to come from somewhere.
Last season, the cost of competing in Formula One made headlines when Lotus; fourth in the pecking order; run into money troubles.
Those troubles resulted in them losing Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari with the team opting to make up part of this year's budget by signing Pastor Maldonado and his PDVSA millions.
"The main problem is that they've got to stop it being so expensive to run the cars, so it stops the need for all this cash," Brundle said at this year's AUTOSPORT International.
"When a team like Lotus, the only one to really challenge Red Bull consistently last year, is short of money then something is fundamentally wrong.
"One way or another, the racing's got to be paid for. Whether it's with Santander following [Fernando] Alonso around, or Vodafone when they had [Lewis] Hamilton and [Jenson] Button for the British market, somewhere it's got to be paid for.
"You can't go racing on fresh air and there's not enough coming in from the organisation.
"There's no doubt that the pay drivers are creeping their way up the grid. But they're still great racing drivers. Don't think anybody who's paid to be there is not a high-level racing driver."
Brundle, however, admits that while most drivers need a bit of cash on hand to make their F1 debuts, it is a problem when that is the deciding factor.
"The balance is getting dangerously close to the pay drivers dominating," he added.
"But it's an awful expression. It's a label that you just can't get rid of. Niki Lauda makes the point that he had to borrow money to pay for his early drives in Formula 1.
"I promised Ken Tyrrell £150,000 I just didn't have in 1984. I was just winging it. And eventually he said to me 'I know you don't have the money but I want you to drive for me anyway'.
"One way or another, you have to facilitate the money, so let's not get too hung up about it.
"But it's disappointing when you see a driver like Paul di Resta getting booted out of F1 when you know that others are in because they're bringing cash.
"That's the bit I'm getting uncomfortable with."