Has the FIA superlicence price hike caused a split within the GPDA?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso, 2008, 470150

Something odd is going on with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association at the moment. There have been stories going around since last year about some of its members being unhappy that certain drivers haven’t joined what is effectively the drivers’ union.

The driver mentioned most often has been Lewis Hamilton, who over the weekend denied rumours he had decided to join the group and donate ??15,000. Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil are also not members, and nor was Anthony Davidson (who is now no longer an active F1 driver).

Their ranks were swelled over the weekend by Felipe Massa, who quit the GPDA saying, “I didn’t always like the way it was run.” But I wonder if money also has something to do with it.

Division in the ranks

Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso have led the criticism of the non-GPDA drivers. Trulli said:

There are some drivers who couldn’t care less but they take advantage of the work done by others. What these sensationally uninterested drivers don’t understand is that the GPDA has a price. We fund it with a fee on the points scored.

If the top six drivers are the uninterested ones, then there’s a lack of money to survive and it’s always the unlucky ones, the ones who get paid less, that have to sustain the costs. The figures are little. The entry fee was one thousand dollars, now it’s probably ??1000, then you pay something like $200 per point scored.

But what I don’t understand is that you might not want to be part of the GPDA, then you can do what you want, but at least pay the money since you go on track too.

The most outrageous thing is that a top driver doesn’t give a damn about his safety. For me, that’s unacceptable. Even drivers that were part of the association and left pretend not to understand, and don’t read what we do.

Alonso added:

It is true there are drivers not in the GPDA, which is their own decision, but in my opinion it is not good.

As I have said another time, everyone can choose what they want – but it is difficult to understand how drivers don’t want to be involved in an association of drivers that want to save our lives when we are racing.

The accident that Kovalainen had last week, we will work on it with the FIA very closely, we will make some proposals and at the end we will find a solution. And these type of accidents will not be repeated.

So drivers who don’t want to be involved with that, it makes no sense.

Money problems

As Trulli explains, the absence of three of F1’s top four drivers from last season is a serious problem for the organisation.

According to Trulli’s estimate of the entry fee per driver being around ??1000 plus $200 (??128.71) per point scored last year then from a potential pot of ??107,334.73 they have already lost ??31,316.20. If Massa has withdrawn the money he owed from last year the total lost grows to ??44,414.94 or 41.38% of their potential revenue – a serious problem for the group.

Back in January the FIA revealed it was substantially increasing the cost of the drivers’ superlicences and linking the cost to the number of points they scored per season. Drivers such as Alonso suddenly found his superlicence bill increase more than four-fold to ??228,000.

At the time I wondered if it was Max Mosley’s way of making the drivers pay for safety changes they were demanding that he didn’t necessarily agree with.

I now wonder if some drivers have seen their whopping superlicence bill and decided that they needn’t pay for two organisations that promote safety in F1, and it’s not as if they can be without their superlicences.

See what the drivers pay for their superlicences here: How much does an F1 driver cost?

Christian Klien, Christijan Albers, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Indianapolis 2006, 470313