FEBRUARY 27, 2009
Drivers pay-up but remain disgruntled
The F1 drivers seem to have decided to pay their superlicence fees, faced by an FIA that is clearly not going to negotiate. The drivers may not be happy about the fees but they seem to have now understood that now is not the time to force the issue. The hikes in price last year were impressive but the FIA argument is that the drivers are well-rewarded and so should contribute to safety. This is not a very solid argumeny but with the sport's finances in their current state it is understandable that this has happened as the FIA does not get sufficient funding to pay for all the work that is necessary. This is a fault of the system more than anyone and another reason why there need to be sensible discussions about the way the money raised by F1 is divided up. It would be best for the drivers to try to discuss this with the various parties involved rather than more radical moves. Previous drivers' strikes have achieved little. The most famous, at the start of 1982, but even this failed to get the drivers to work together in total unison. The problem then was also the superlicence with the drivers objecting to having to nominate the team to which they are contracted; declaring the length of their contract and agreeing to do no moral nor material harm to the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Forms were sent to 30 drivers and eight refused to sign them. In South Africa the drivers went on strike although Jochen Mass turned up a practiced by himself. The FIA announced that all the drivers were suspended. Later another driver, Teo Fabi, broke ranks under pressure from his team. In the end the drivers agreed to practice. After the race they were suspended again and the 23 drivers involved were fined. They appealed to the FIA International Court of Appeal which ruled that the fines should stand but that some should be reduced. The court did criticise the FIA for undue haste in handing out sanctions and for not hearing the drivers' case properly but that was not a victory. The GPDA was disbanded soon afterwards and a new organisation called the Professional Racing Drivers' Association never got off the ground.
The ony other strike of note in major racing was in NASCAR in 1969 when the drivers refused to race at the new Alabama International Motor Speedway at Talladega. The track was so fast that the tyres could not last more than a few laps. The Professional Drivers Association, led by Richard Petty, decided to boycott the event and 37 drivers went home. NASCAR boss Bill France threw open the entry to anyone he could find with GT cars and even ARCA machines allowed to race. There was a field of 36 cars.
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