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Mark Webber believes quality of Formula 1 grid is dropping

Mark WebberMark Webber believes the quality of the Formula 1 grid has dropped since he made his debut in 2002 because of the prevalence of pay drivers.

The Australian believes financial concerns are forcing teams to focus on budget rather than talent, and that some of the most worthy drivers are being overlooked.

In what he labelled a 'sad state', Webber believes that has diluted the quality of the current grid to the extent it is actually weaker than it was 13 years ago when he made a home soil debut with Minardi.

"When I was on the grid at the back with Minardi you had Irvine, Salo - all those guys had been on podiums," Webber said.

"The grid was just packed full of guys who had won in F3000, won a lot of impressive races.

"[Now] there are a lot of talented guys out there, but a lot are slipping through the net unfortunately. That's a sad state.

"[Robin] Frijns for example is a phenomenal young talent, [but] has got no cash."

Webber said he remains focused on ensuring protege Mitch Evans reaches F1, but admitted he is wary of the 19-year-old being promoted too early.

Evans won last year's GP3 championship and has taken four podiums for Arden in his maiden GP2 campaign in 2013.

Asked about the example of Sergey Sirotkin, who is set to race for Sauber next year, Webber said entering the sport so young could present a safety concern.

"Maybe it's a safety worry, we'll see," Webber said of drivers being promoted so early.

"You can drive the car, but for sure it's not the optimal point to enter I don't think.

"My job is to get Mitch there to show what he can do, [but] there's not much testing going on at the moment [so] you have to see what they can do in the period they have.

"Is he [Sirotkin] a Kimi or Sebastian? We'll find out."

Australian GP starting grids - 
comparing Webber's debut with his final home grand prix

2002                                 2013
 1. Rubens Barrichello                1. Sebastian Vettel
 2. Michael Schumacher                2. Mark Webber
 3. Ralf Schumacher                   3. Lewis Hamilton
 4. David Coulthard                   4. Felipe Massa
 5. Kimi Raikkonen                    5. Fernando Alonso
 6. Juan Pablo Montoya                6. Nico Rosberg
 7. Jarno Trulli                      7. Kimi Raikkonen
 8. Giancarlo Fisichella              8. Romain Grosjean
 9. Felipe Massa                      9. Paul di Resta
10. Nick Heidfeld                    10. Jenson Button
11. Jenson Button                    11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Olivier Panis                    12. Adrian Sutil
13. Jacques Villeneuve               13. Jean-Eric Vergne
14. Mika Salo                        14. Daniel Ricciardo
15. Heinz-Harald Frentzen            15. Sergio Perez
16. Allan McNish                     16. Valtteri Bottas
17. Enrique Bernoldi                 17. Pastor Maldonado
18. Mark Webber                      18. Esteban Gutierrez
19. Eddie Irvine                     19. Jules Bianchi
20. Pedro de la Rosa                 20. Max Chilton
21. Alex Yoong                       21. Giedo van der Garde
22. Takuma Sato                      22. Charles Pic

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