Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr says three other Formula 1 teams were interested in signing him before he started his road to the grid with Sauber and that in truth he is no more a pay driver than a driver promoted by Red Bull.
Although impressive on debut in 2015, the 22-year-old Brazilian has had to continually fight the public notion that he is a ‘pay driver’.
Nasr has brought the strong backing and colours of his sponsor Banco do Brasil to Sauber, but he insists he would have got to Formula 1 anyway.
“My father or one of my relatives is not a former F1 driver,” he told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat. “I am from an ordinary family. I would have been able to get to F1 in many ways, but I walked the road with Steve Robertson.”
Robertson is most well known for nurturing and managing Kimi Raikkonen. And Nasr even said recently that Raikkonen himself actually invested in his rise to F1.
“When I first came to Europe, Red Bull, Gravity (Lotus) and Mercedes were interested in taking me into their driver development programmes,” he claims.
Not only that, Nasr was set to test a BMW-Sauber as a 17-year-old in 2009, after dominating in Formula BMW, but the German carmaker then pulled out of F1.
“I felt that going with Robertson was the right solution for me,” said Nasr. “But now people think I’m in F1 because I am in their opinion a pay driver, but I don’t see what the difference is between me and a Red Bull (funded) driver.”