'Pay-to-drive' deal is a common practice in motor racing.

ALAIN PROST'S offer to Christian Murchison is, in effect, a "pay-to-drive" deal. It is a common practice in motor racing because drivers are usually paid the big bucks when they make it to Formula One.

Unlike football, where players are paid to play at the top levels, drivers moving up the ranks usually raise their own money or bring in sponsors to secure contracts.

It even happened to the late three-time world champion Ayrton Senna. He was offered a spot in a Formula Ford team in 1982. But he had to raise £10,000 (S$25,500 today) in exchange for the drive.

In Murchison's case, he caught the eye of Prost in September. There, Prost's F3000 team pitted him against its regular driver, Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais.

Bourdais had clocked 1min 32.5sec, his best-ever time, at the Bugatti Le Mans circuit, his home track.

But Murchison, in his first time in an unfamiliar car and track, clocked 1:33.6sec in the hotter afternoon when times are usually about a second slower.