Drivers call for better leadership in Formula 1
Letter from Grand Prix Drivers’ Association roundly criticises short-term thinking in both regulatory and commercial areas
The Formula 1 drivers have taken the extraordinary step of demanding change at the top of the sport in an open letter criticising the current governance structure. The letter, written by Grand Prix Drivers’ Association directors Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Alex Wurz “on behalf of the drivers”, says F1’s decisionmaking process is “obsolete, ill-structured and prevents progress being made”.
This, it says, “reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth”.
It adds: “Recent rule changes – on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business directions – are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its success”.
The letter does not make specific reference to the issues that concern the drivers, but many of them have been critical of the adoption of the new qualifying system over the winter, and several top drivers took part in a meeting with Pirelli in February in which they expressed their misgivings about the current tyres. The letter, though, is more far-reaching than that.
They are understood to be concerned about many of the ideas that have come up in recent years for rule changes, whether taken up or not – such as weight handicaps, standing starts behind the safety car, the move to pay TV, tighter
Button, Wurz and Vettel are the elected representatives of the GPDA, of which most (but not all) drivers on the grid are members restrictions on passes, reverse grids, sprint races, and helmet design restrictions.
The letter adds: “We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of F1 to consider restructuring its governance. The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short or long-term, sporting, technical or business oriented, should be based on a clear masterplan. Such a plan should reflect the core values of F1.
“We need to ensure that F1 remains a sport, a closely-fought competition between the best drivers in extraordinary machines on the coolest race tracks. F1 should be home only to the best teams, drivers and circuits, with partners and suppliers fit for such an elite championship.”
The drivers emphasised that the letter was “intended for the best interests of all and should not be seen as a blind and disrespectful attack”.
Wurz said the decision to write the letter was passed by “an extremely clear vote” and that it was “not a knee-jerk reaction to the qualifying experiment – the statement was well considered and planned between all the drivers”.
F1 commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone riposted with an open statement of his own, saying, “It is easy to analyse what is wrong so why not think and come back on this”.