F1’s cheapest pay driver? Details shared on remarkable €1 deal

Jamie Woodhouse
Cars line up on F1 starting grid for practice starts

Cars line up on F1 starting grid for practice starts.

2012 World Endurance Champion and three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer recalled how his sole Formula 1 appearance with Caterham came about at a price of just one euro.

It was a bumpy ride for Caterham on the F1 grid, who originally joined in 2010 as Lotus, before changing their identity ahead of the 2012 season.

Racing in F1 until the end of the 2014 campaign, the team departed without a point scored across five seasons in total.

Andre Lotterer pays €1 for Belgian Grand Prix drive

Lotus/Caterham fielded some rather well-known drivers in the F1 realm during their time on the grid, including former McLaren racer Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, previously of Renault and Toyota, and ex-Toyota/Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi to name a few.

And it was a clause in Kobayashi’s contract which allowed Lotterer – someone far more well-known for his successes in endurance racing than his F1 career – one shot in the Caterham.

He paid just one euro to trigger a clause in Kobayashi’s contract and take his seat at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix.

Sadly it was not a sensational debut outing, and was never likely to be considering the uncompetitive nature of the Caterham CT05.

Lotterer did manage 21st place on the grid by outqualifying team-mate Marcus Ericsson, but retired from the race on lap 1 with an electrical issue.

Recalling how this opportunity came about, Lotterer told Auto Motor und Sport: “Colin Kolles, who made it possible for me to make my debut at Le Mans in 2009 and thus changed a few things in my career, called me as the new Caterham race director.

“He wanted me to do Spa because I know the track well and I have a chance in the rain. If I remember correctly, there was a clause in Kamui Kobayashi’s contract that he could only be replaced by a pay driver. Maybe I paid a euro for the deal and then I was in the cockpit.

“It was last minute, of course. I did spend some time in the simulator to understand the subject, but I really jumped in at the deep end.

“I got used to it pretty quickly. However, I never thought it would be such a big deal. There was a lot going on around me in the paddock. I don’t think they’ve ever had so many people at a Caterham press round.

“Without any pressure, I was able to enjoy being a Formula 1 driver for a weekend. It was fun and I even beat my team-mate in qualifying.”

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Lotterer said that outing at Spa did not necessarily need to be his only F1 appearance, with offers to race at Monza and Abu Dhabi on the table.

However, he had little interest to “mess around” at the back of the grid even for one euro, so declined the approaches.

“The team asked me to drive at Monza, but wanted me to share the car with Roberto Merhi in practice,” said Lotterer. “After I hardly drove at Spa, it was either the whole weekend for me – or nothing.

“They kept asking, but I stuck with it. That’s how I ended up saying no to Formula 1.

“When Kolles was no longer with the team, there was another enquiry for the season finale in Abu Dhabi. I let it go because I was happy with the long haul.

“To put it bluntly: I wasn’t motivated to mess around at the back, and even with a top job, nothing would have come of it in that situation. I made that decision at the time and I don’t regret it. The car really wasn’t fun to drive due to less aero.”

The 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proved to be Caterham’s last in Formula 1 after a crowdfunding campaign brought the resources together to compete at the final round.

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