ART co-owner and leading driver manager Nicolas Todt is concerned that personal sponsorship is influencing too many Formula 1 teams' signings at present.
Although financial considerations have long been a factor in teams' driver choices, Todt believes the practice has become more prevalent in recent seasons and fears for the chances of drivers currently rising up the ladder.
"I'm very worried because, up to a few seasons ago, drivers would step up to Formula 1 on merit," he told Autosprint. "The drivers who got there thanks to financial guarantees were sporadic and it mostly regarded small teams.
"Because of the global economic crisis and the relative difficulties for medium and small teams to find the budget, even the most deserving young drivers are now struggling to find their way in the grand prix world. In my work as manager, where considerable investments are required in lesser formulas already, obtaining important and prestigious results is no guarantee to plan a future in Formula 1.
"Paradoxically, it's more difficult to step up to Formula 1 nowadays, even though there are more available seats."
Todt is currently managing Ferrari test driver and GP2 frontrunner Jules Bianchi, who he says is a prime example of the kind of young racer whose future might be bleak without more funding.
"In 2011 Jules Bianchi will have the chance to do a good season in GP2, that's what I hope," said Todt. "But I'm conscious that if I fail to find a sponsor or a financier, I won't have the certainty of finding a seat, even should Jules dominate the series."
He thinks only drivers tied in to F1 teams' development programs stand a chance of getting to the top level without personal sponsorship.
"In the future I see concrete chances for those drivers able to combine results and sponsors, or for those that tie themselves from a very young age to Red Bull, McLaren or Mercedes, who can guarantee a debut in the circus without economic support," Todt said. "It will be a lot more difficult for the rest."