As close as it gets
In 2013 Luiz Razia came painfully close to becoming a full-time F1 driver
Luiz Razia is a forgotten name by most but those who do remember him do so for an unfortunate reason; the Brazilian driver signed a contract to race for Marussia in 2013 but never did.
Luiz Razia's best year was 2012 with Arden
The former racing driver finished 2nd in the 2012 GP2 season but already had the eyes of F1 teams on him before that. He made his debut in GP2 in 2009 in a poorly performing team but in 2010 he moved to the team that would eventually be crowned champions that year. His teammate, the infamous Pastor Maldonado, easily beat him throughout the season and earned himself the championship. This disappointing season really hit Luiz hard, he started to doubt his own talent and considered giving up on the chase for an F1 seat but he did drive for Virgin Racing F1 team at the young drivers' test at the end of the year. However he gave GP2 another try thanks to an offer from Tony Fernandes to race in GP2 while being an F1 test driver. If you remember Tony Fernandes owned Team Lotus (which would eventually become Caterham) and in 2011 decided to buy a team in GP2 and name it Caterham Team AirAisa. While results weren't the greatest, Tony Fernandes didn't overly pressure his GP2 drivers to achieve results since the team was new and he was more focused on graduating drivers into F1. Luiz was happy with his year, he drove in two FP1s and started to get more involved in the F1 world.
Luiz Razia drove for Team Lotus in a couple of FP1s in 2011
2012 was his big year. At the time Christian Horner ran the Arden team in GP2 while being Red Bull's team principle, he called Luiz and basically told him to join Arden, do whatever he wanted with the team and just win. Luiz agreed and asked to keep his previous engineer, work with Red Bull team members, use their simulator and get one sent to Arden as well, bring a few mechanics and a new team principle from Red Bull. He had a great year as he had the staff he wanted and all kinds of telemetry from Red Bull which included aero, tyre pressure, tarmac data, etc. He led the championship for most of the season but ended up finishing 2nd which looked good on his CV but the fact that he did on his 4th full season did not. He drove for both Force India and Toro Rosso at young drivers' tests.
A taste of a more competitive F1 car
Luiz was always aware that he was talented but not an exceptional generational talent and attributed his results to hard work. He claims that if a driver wants to get an F1 seat without money he/she HAS to win GP2/F2 in their rookie year, like Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hülkenberg, Charles Leclerc and George Russel did, if they can't then they require serious backing from sponsors. To become more appealing to F1 teams he met with over fifty Brazilian companies to receive their backing. Eventually two Brazilian investors agreed to help him get a seat at Marussia. Force India and Toro Rosso, thanks to the Christian Horner connection, were two other options he had but he claims they were asking for €7/12 million (he's not sure which team asked for €7 million and which asked for €12 million), while Marussia asked for €4-5 million.
The 4th F1 car/team he tested with was Toro Rosso
The contract was signed, Luiz drove for Marussia in the pre-season tests in Jerez and the investors had already made the first payment worth €500,000. However as the Australian GP approached and the team awaited the following payment from one of the investors it did not arrive, the investor decided to pull-out. Until then Luiz felt like the happiest man on earth having achieved his dream of becoming an F1 driver, he was extremely grateful, extreme emotions even without having started a single GP yet. Understandably the news devastated him and he decided to stop the pursuit of the F1 dream. It was moment of realisation for him, he didn't make it into F1 with pure talent but he had some talent, lots perseverance and hard work but that only left him at the door step of F1.
Papers signed, pre-season completed and that was it...
Luiz was born in the state of Bahia in the northeast of Brazil, a state without any motosport infrastructure, he started racing on dirt and only when he was fifteen years old did he start racing karts when he moved to the capital. His ascent up the racing ladder was challenging to say the least and had to deal with people who didn't believe in him. At the end of 2011 when he was a Team Lotus test driver, Cyril Abiteboul, current Renault F1 team principle, joined the team and they sat down to talk about getting full-time seat for 2012. Cyril told him very simply that he didn't have enough talent to become an F1 driver. This motivated him further and the following year when he was winning races in GP2, he would look at Cyril when he saw him in the paddock and laughed at him while Cyril showed regret for saying the things he did while struggling to improve the team's results. At some point in the following years Luiz even had a chance to work with Cyril again but firmly declined simply because he could not accept working with someone like him.
The F1 dream was right there
As Jules Bianchi got his seat he was left on his own with doors closing. No financial support, no F1 and he couldn't go back to GP2. He found his way into touring car racing and the went to the US for Indy Lights in 2014 where he was quite successful but since giving up on F1 he raced with no motivation. At this point he was only racing because it was his job, since he was getting paid to race but he did not feel the excitement anymore, he had to convince himself that he wanted to race. He then returned to Brazil did a few touring car races but soon after retired from racing and now runs his own marketing company.
Luiz Razia's was never a rising star going up the ranks but he was talented enough to receive the attention of several F1 teams. It's a real shame that he wasn't able to race in F1 and while he probably would have carried the "pay driver" label he would have reached F1 on his own merit.
Note: This is was written because of his recent interview in Portuguese with Motorsport Brasil. If you're interested and understand portuguese you can watch the interview here.