JUNE 19, 2008
A licence to print money?
There is talk of a drivers' strike ahead in Formula 1, but these things have never been successful in the past and are unlikely to be so in the future. Unity amongst racing drivers is a rare thing, indeed not all the current drivers are member of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, and so there is even less pressure on them to conform. The problem they face is that there are always drivers willing to step into their seats if they choose to vacate them.
There have been a few previous attempts at such things but as Bill France showed at Talladega in September 1969 one can always replace the stars with new boys. On that occasion, citing the danger of exploding tyres, 37 drivers went home before the NASCAR event. France threw open the entry to anyone he could find and the crowd was still given a show. Danger is one thing but the hike in the price of a licence is quite another.
There will be little sympathy for a bunch of tax-exiled millionaires complaining of having to spend some of their money to keep their wealth flowing in. Superlicences cost drivers around $2,600 a year plus $700 a point scored in the previous season. The FIA World Council deceided recently that with F1 salaries in the midfield having risen to around $8m a year it was quite acceptable to charge $15,000 for the licence and $3,100 a point. This would mean that a high-scoring driver like Kimi Raikkonen might have to pay $350,000 in a year. This is less than 10% of his salary. Many drivers consider this to be too much. There is no queston that for youngsters who are doing well but give away much of their money to managers it can be a burden, but the sad news is that drivers cannot afford to strike.
And the FIA knows that.
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