Let's begin by making it clear that I have no real issue with pay drivers and, if we look at my history I wrote last year on this very matter and said, in relation to Petrov in particular:
Petrov has shown he has talent and probably deserves a place on the grid
On Di Resta - who was added to the list because it seemed that a price reduction on the Mercedes Engine formed part of his deal:
Great things are expected from Di Resta given his racing history
And in relation to Perez:
Perez may turn out to be a find
Even with that in mind I'm afraid that I have to agree with Jarno that Petrov got the seat because of his money. This was further confirmed by Caterham:
Caterham F1 team has today announced that it has signed a deal with SIBUR to be an official Team Partner. SIBUR, the largest petrochemical company in Russia and Eastern Europe, has also confirmed that it is continuing the partnership agreement it began in 2011 with Vitaly Petrov in his new role as Race Driver for the Anglo / Malaysian Caterham F1 Team. The SIBUR logo will feature on the CT01 cars and on Vitaly’s race suits throughout the 2012 season.
Vitaly appears to be very sensitive in relation to this matter of paying for a drive, attributing the Caterham drive to his abilities as a driver and his results in 2010 and 2011. That may be true, to a point, and he does have youth on his side (Jarno at 37 is considered an "old boy" now) but, let's face it, Give Jarno a CAR rather than a tractor and he'd put it into the mix at every GP (he may crash out during the GP, he may drive the car beyond its capability, or he may slot in another great drive).
The other side of the coin may be that Jarno has been driving a pig for so long that he'd suffer the way Giancarlo Fisichella did when dropped into the Ferrari. No time to prepare or test and a massively disappointing result.
I do think that Petrov's backing was a major factor though - read Tony Fernandes:
“We are delighted to welcome SIBUR into our team and to help them continue their relationship in F1 with Vitaly, and now with Caterham F1 Team.
F1 is a truly global sport, and SIBUR’s investment in our sport is proof of the value F1 can bring, on a national and international level, so we are looking forward to working closely with Mr Konov [company CEO] and his team at SIBUR to help them realize maximum benefit from this partnership."
This is a make or break year for Vitaly. To be so far back on the grid after only 2 years in the sport does not speak volumes about the confidence of the sharp end in his abilities. He has to do a Webbo/Alonso/Trulli Minardi job in order to show that he has the something special which the rest of the grid wants. If he can't you can be sure that come 2014 SIBUR will be fashioning their own links within the sport - who's to say that RBR can't have a young russian driver in their yound driver programme?
AND in an off the scale story I spotted a "Perez to Ferrari" headline or two which gives the impression that, in the end it's all about money - Massively rich Mexican, Carlos Slim son has tipped him for Ferrari in 2013. To which all I can add is... (watch this advertising space!).