Driv­ers de­mand change at the top of For­mula 1 af­ter con­tro­ver­sial calls

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook ALEX WURZ

Grand prix driv­ers are poised for crunch talks with For­mula 1 bosses af­ter de­mand­ing changes to the way the sport is gov­erned fol­low­ing a se­ries of un­pop­u­lar rule changes in re­cent sea­sons.

Last week the Grand Prix Driv­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion – the um­brella body that rep­re­sents the views of ac­tive and re­cent F1 driv­ers – re­leased a state­ment call­ing for a ma­jor re­struc­tur­ing of the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process in F1, call­ing the cur­rent or­gan­i­sa­tion “ob­so­lete and ill-struc­tured”.

The state­ment came just days af­ter F1’s lat­est botched rule change, fol­low­ing the fail­ure of the new knock­out qual­i­fy­ing for­mat used dur­ing the Aus­tralian Grand Prix week­end. The change was met with wide­spread crit­i­cism from fans, driv­ers and teams and ne­ces­si­tated emer­gency meet­ings in Mel­bourne to de­cide whether to ditch it im­me­di­ately or not. While the con­tro­ver­sial for­mat will be re­tained for this week­end’s Bahrain Grand Prix ( see side­bar), F1 driv­ers have taken it upon them­selves to voice their con­cerns over F1’s fu­ture un­der the cur­rent gover­nance.

The GPDA’S state­ment, which was writ­ten and signed by pres­i­dent Alex Wurz, Jen­son But­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, said: “F1 is chal­lenged by a dif­fi­cult global eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, a swift change in con­sumer be­hav­iour and a de­ci­sive shift in the TV and me­dia land­scape. This makes it fun­da­men­tal that the sport’s lead­ers make smart and well-con­sid­ered ad­just­ments.

“We feel that some re­cent rule changes – on both the sport­ing and tech­ni­cal side, in­clud­ing some big busi­ness de­ci­sions – are dis­rup­tive, do not ad­dress the big­ger is­sues our sport is fac­ing and in some cases could jeop­ar­dise its fu­ture suc­cess.

“The driv­ers have come to the con­clu­sion that the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process in the sport is ob­so­lete and ill-struc­tured and pre­vents progress be­ing made. In­deed it some­times leads to grid­lock.

“This re­flects neg­a­tively on our sport, pre­vents it be­ing fit for the next gen­er­a­tion of fans and com­pro­mises global growth.

“We re­quest and urge the own­ers and all stake­hold­ers of F1 to con­sider re­struc­tur­ing its own gover­nance.”

Why the wor­ries?

For­mula 1’s global au­di­ences have de­clined sharply over re­cent years, with the sport haem­or­rhag­ing 175 mil­lion view­ers since 2008. Some of that fig­ure can be put down to the switch to pay-per-view TV in many re­gions, but the de­cline is still year-onyear ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial FIA fig­ures. While UK au­di­ence fig­ures are sta­ble, and even in­creas­ing in some cases, F1’s global ap­peal has wilted in re­cent sea­sons.

The driv­ers are con­cerned that the cur­rent tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions, which have pro­duced two dom­i­nant sea­sons for the Mercedes team, have hurt pub­lic in­ter­est by be­ing too com­plex, and also that a num­ber of key rule changes de­signed to win back that in­ter­est have in­stead muddied the wa­ters by fal­si­fy­ing the sport and turn­ing off its hard­core fan base.

In re­cent sea­sons alone F1 rule­mak­ers have in­tro­duced a dou­ble points sea­son fi­nale, mud­dled the qual­i­fy­ing for­mat, re­stricted ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion and driver hel­met de­signs and also re­peat­edly de­layed and al­tered the plans for faster cars for 2017.

F1 also last week sealed a new exclusive TV deal with Sky Sports, which will take the sport away from free-to-air cov­er­age en­tirely from 2019 ( see page six). There are also con­tin­ued con­cerns about F1’s skewed fi­nan­cial struc­ture, which places greater re­wards with larger teams.

Wurz said the let­ter was not a knee­jerk re­ac­tion to the qual­i­fy­ing farce in Aus­tralia, but was in­stead based on a num­ber of re­cent is­sues.

“Driv­ers are the real stars of the sport and in re­sponse to some heated dis­cus­sions by our fans and also inside the pad­dock the driv­ers felt it is time to ex­press their opinion,” said Wurz.

“This state­ment was well­con­sid­ered and planned be­tween all driv­ers for quite a while and dis­cussed in Mel­bourne again dur­ing a spe­cial meet­ing. Since the GPDA’S ex­is­tence in the 1960s we have op­er­ated by ma­jor­ity vote, and in this case it was ex­tremely clear re­gard­ing the de­sire to ex­press our opinion.

“In or­der to make our sport fit for the fu­ture and next gen­er­a­tions, the busi­ness model and the way F1 is run needs to be ad­dressed and re­de­fined, and fol­lowed by a clear road map or mas­ter plan. We are not con­vinced that in­di­vid­ual up­dates to sport­ing or tech­ni­cal rules are the so­lu­tion. We be­lieve ev­ery act­ing in­di­vid­ual of the stake­hold­ers wants the best for the sport. How­ever, the process of how stake­hold­ers de­cide over the sport doesn’t seem to work well.”

Triple world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton also said in Aus­tralia that things had to change. He told re­porters: “At the top end there are prob­a­bly way too many peo­ple mak­ing de­ci­sions who prob­a­bly don’t have a lot of un­der­stand­ing of what it’s like in the car.

“All the peo­ple mak­ing de­ci­sions have dif­fer­ent opin­ions, and if they don’t agree then some­thing doesn’t get done. My un­der­stand­ing is there

“The process doesn’t work”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.