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

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

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

  1. I am with Trulli on this one. All drivers should play some part in it, even if it is just donations…none of them are on the breadline.

  2. Bah, that is silly. And we all know that Trulli is silly. Along with DC wich is also silly and both are crybabies.

    That organization has no reason to exist, isn’t the FIA the one that sees for safety issues?

    If I were a driver I could not be ***** to join that silly band camp.

  3. Journeyer said on 13th May 2008, 16:44

    Keith, this thing is just begging for a poll. People are pretty evenly divided on this, from what I see. And both sides have good valid points too! :)

  4. michael counsell said on 13th May 2008, 19:01

    The situation is very similar in MotoGP I think with older, louder riders criticising younger, quieter ones for not caring. I think its probably more that de la Rosa, Alonso, Webber, Trulli etc have their way of thinking and influencing others and perhaps other drivers don’t feel they can contribute to it.

    Its unfortunate for the GPDA that the most successful drivers at the moment seem to be those who are unwilling to contribute in terms of work or money.

  5. Is it michael?

    I see that because the most successful drivers on the grid do not want anything to do with GPDA, the GPDA is not needed at all.

    They can whine all they want, it seems nobody is listening.

  6. Melanie said on 13th May 2008, 19:54

    I think the problem is that we don’t really know everything that goes on behind close doors in the GPDA.

    These guys have huge salaries, I’am sure money is not the question. (Only perhaps for Sutil?)

    About the reasons, I recall earlier in Raikkonen’s career (around 2003) he said he didn’t want to join because he is not interested in politics, and he thinks F1 is safe enough. He received lots of stick for that, and has most recently only kept the part that he is not interested in politics. Hamilton said he is to busy, and Massa left because he doesn’t like the way in which the GPDA is governed.

    I think it show a patron and it means that there is perhaps much more politics involved in the GPDA, then we realize. This is not just simply about safety at the end of the day, in fact safety might actually not even be such a big part of it.

    Then on top of that you get the alpha-male syndrome, it is really difficult to envision that Hamilton or Raikkonen will happily follow Alonso’s guidance and leadership.

  7. Yeah, leadership… And of course the fact that DC, Trulli and Alphonso are all silly girls.

    I can imagine a meeting:
    -Did you see that? He didn’t gave me rooom…
    -Okay now we all agree, no overtaking in turn 1 next race…
    -He came from nowhere! There was no room!

    Obviously neither Kimi or Hamilton have time for that nonsense.

  8. BTW Your Nige would fit perfectly in GPDA.

  9. S Hughes said on 13th May 2008, 20:07

    I’ve been pondering this question for some time and I think it’s to do with personalities, Lewis-bashing and misinformation.

    Let me explain. First we get the hoo-ha about Lewis being a tax-exile, being derided and abused from all sides for not paying tax in Britain. This argument went by the wayside when it was revealed what people should already have known, that most if not all F1 drivers are tax exiles, and even much loved “golden girls” of athletics like Paula Radcliffe are Monaco residents. Then the argument switched to Hamilton lying about his reasons, despite me having seen an article in The Times in March 2007 saying that Hamilton said he thought he would have to become a tax exile at some stage soon. You see the pattern here – everything Lewis says or does is scrutinised and criticised over and above anything any of the other drivers do or say even if it is exactly the same.

    So then the next Lewis bashing opportunity came with the GPDA. The first stories I think were Pedro de la Rosa saying Hamilton should join, then Jackie Stewart, and then the party started and they all laid into him in the media: what a rotten man he was for not joining the drivers’ union. Then the lies and misinformation were corrected as it came out that the 2007 WDC Kimi Raikkonen no less, was also not a member. Aaah, so Lewis wasn’t the only devil in F1 as was previously intimated. Then we learnt that Adrian Sutil and the poor but much beloved cousin of Lewis Hamilton, Anthony Davidson, also weren’t members. Also, Pedro de la Rosa, kind of slow off the start, said Lewis wasn’t at all under pressure to join. All of a sudden, the GPDA nonsense temporarily ceased only to be revived recently by Trulli’s outburst, Alonso’s statement, and Massa leaving because “he didn’t like the way it was run”.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with money at all. These people earn so much and I’m sure the GPDA is well funded. Look at who runs the GPDA: de la Rosa, his old buddy Alonso, their buddy Trulli who spends hols on Briatore’s yacht. There appears to me to be a sort of rats’ rat-pack of unpleasant F1 characters running this show, and some drivers just don’t want to be a part of it. I remember Massa’s run in with Alonso (can’t remember the GP last year) so I don’t think they’re particularly fond of each other, and neither would Hamilton be, or his friend Sutil. Don’t know the reasons for Raikkonen or Davidson, but Raikkonen has always been one to steer his own path.

    If the GPDA is a useful important F1 organisation, maybe there ought to be a purge at the top and less public haranguing of drivers because the whole thing is turning into a farce. I do think that there are various “camps” that the drivers fit into and I’m sure that is part of the reason for non-joining and leaving.

  10. Journeyer said on 14th May 2008, 1:20

    Hmmm… S Hughes brings up a very valid point. Look at it: who’s active in the GPDA now?

    - Alonso
    - de la Rosa – a fellow Spaniard like Alonso
    - Trulli – a best buddy of Alonso
    - Webber – a fellow Briatore signee like Alonso
    - Coulthard – a teammate of Webber

    In school terms, some people would call that a clique, right? Now, I’m sure some drivers (like Hamilton and Sutil, Massa and Raikkonen) would see it that way, and others would not. But the fact that there is just that impression of a clique is already damaging to the GPDA leadership.

    Just one thing, S: GPDA directors are voted for by all the members themselves, so surely they have to accept whoever was voted by the majority?

  11. Jaime said on 14th May 2008, 1:36

    What we can not do is hint that the GPDA has more going behind the scenes than what it is suposed to, because we really dont know. So why make any assumptions on this.

    Obviously, drivers need to have their opinion heard on FIA F1 decissions regarding safety and this is only viable as a group. Just imagine what would happen with different opinions from different drivers and FIA not listening, or what is worse, appearing to listen more to some drivers than others.

    The point of paying a bigger superlicence bill for the safety measures does not invalidate the need of the GPDA. That increased bill does not give the right to voice opinion or the ability to orginize the drivers opinions.

    The fact that the GPDA fee denpends on points I cannot explain. Maybe if drivers get money for each point in a grand prix, there could be some relation with fee based on that. any other case, for me it sounds better to all pay the same fee, this is no poor mans land to make such a small fee depend on driver income.

  12. Journeyer said on 14th May 2008, 1:45

    Jaime, I guess the reason why the fee is tied to points is because we must remember that not all drivers have salaries in F1, especially in the past. Many a driver have had to pay for his seat through sponsors, so instead of getting paid to race, he pays to race instead. The only guaranteed way a driver makes money in F1 is when he scores points at races, because it’s tied to prize money.

  13. Michael Counsell said on 14th May 2008, 2:16

    To those criticising members of the GPDA for being “girls”. For one thing thats sexist and a bit petty. Calling it whining is pretty derogatory and ill-informed. I’d imagine that for many drivers who control cars at 200mph control is very important and not being part of a union is like taking the hands off of the wheel half way round a lap

    To haplo, if you read my comment I said it was unfortunate FOR the GPDA not to receive money, how could it be fortunate?

    The directors were voted in by the drivers and if they don’t like it they should have voted for someone else or ran themselves…

    I don’t see why joining a union or not has to be a scandal and I don’t see why people are criticised for commenting on it. The journalists ask the questions and the drivers answer in the most opinionated way they see fit. Its hardly a scandal, just a chance to have a go at Raikkonen, Hamilton, Massa etc for being reckless and Alonso, Trulli, Webber etc for being ‘whiners.’

    Once again this is an anti argument against people arguing about things they know little about with the urgent need to blame someone.

  14. Mmm… Michael, this is hardly a serious discussion, we’re talking here about the sport we love, thus passion and “mentalness” HAS to be involved. We could argue science, politics and really “important” subjects and then we would be very wrong to call anyone girly. Only then would be derogatory in all the meaning of the word.

    You can’t really think that just because calls Trulli a sassy girl, he really thinks so, right? After all, that “sassy girl” drives a F1 car, earns more than I will see in my entire life and lives the life I only dream about. It’s just the usual comment about the “other team”.

    So, please don’t believe that (I, at least) we mean all we say in a strict sense.

    And about the GPDA, I really think it’s fortunate that they don’t receive any money or participation from the top dogs because I don’t see any need for that silly (see? again!) organization for Alphonso (oops!) and his girly friends (man, you can’t avoid it!).

    Just cheer and enjoy our babbling ;)

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