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F1 drivers attack F1's governance as "obsolete and ill-structured" and call for reforms

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F1 drivers attack F1's governance as "obsolete and ill-structured" and call for reforms
Mar 23, 2016, 6:57 PM

The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) has raised the stakes in the fallout over new regulations and qualifying formats in Australia by calli...

The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) has raised the stakes in the fallout over new regulations and qualifying formats in Australia by calling on Formula 1’s stakeholders to reinvent the governance and decision making process that surrounds the championship.

Several high-profile drivers have questioned the state of F1 in recent weeks and the introduction, and subsequent abandonment, of the elimination qualifying system after the Australian Grand Prix has led the GPDA to write an open letter to the sport’s leaders.

The main message of the GPDA’s letter is that the drivers are unhappy with the recent changes to F1’s regulations and they fear these alterations are damaging the status of the series.

GPDA Australian Grand Prix

The statement said: “We feel that some 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 future success.”

The timing is significant; it is not just a response to the unsavoury business around qualifying in Melbourne, it comes barely three weeks before the deadline for 2017 regulations to be finalised. The sport appears to be heading off down a path towards higher downforce cars, which is incompatible with the drivers's view that the priority should be for them tone able to follow and race each other.

This wider context can be read in the subtext of this letter and in some of its bolder assertions; the decision making process currently employed by F1 comes in for particular attack in the GPDA’s letter as the drivers feel it is “obsolete and ill-structured” and denies the sport the chance to make improvements.

“The drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress being made,” the statement read.

GPDA Australian Grand Prix

“Indeed, it can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock. This reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.”

F1's decision making process is notoriously complicated. Rule changes proposed by the F1 Strategy group (the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams, McLaren, Force India and Red Bull Racing) are then voted on by the F1 Commission, which is made up of all the teams, along with some circuit promoters, sponsors and suppliers, such as Pirelli.

The FIA's World Motorsport Council then either approves or stops any changes. This is why the governing body could not approve a plan to run qualifying in Melbourne under the elimination rules for Q1 and Q2 and the old shootout for Q3, as it cannot alter proposals, it can only decide yes or no.

XPB.cc Bernie Ecclestone Jean Todt

Any rule changes that are proposed after March 1 of any F1 season also need unanimous approval if they are to be adopted for the following year, which rarely occurs.

Keep F1 as an “elite championship”

After questioning the current state of F1, the GPDA statement calls on the sport’s stakeholders to “consider restructuring its own governance.” The GPDA also wants a new “master plan” for F1 that promotes the most popular aspects of the series and keeps it as an “elite championship.”

GPDA Australian Grand Prix

The statement said: “We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula 1 to consider restructuring its own governance.

“The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short or long term, sporting, technical or business orientated should be based on a clear master plan. Such plan should reflect the principles and core values of Formula 1.

“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.

Alexander Wurz

The GPDA, which is chaired by former F1 driver Alexander Wurz, has also been vocal in its calls for increased cockpit protection measures for the 2017 season, but it insisted the letter was not a “blind and disrespectful attack.”

Some paddock insiders believe that Wurz, who is also a two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner, may run for the presidency of the FIA in due course.

The letter, which was released via the GPDA’s Twitter account, was also signed by McLaren driver Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who both act as directors for the organisation.

Jenson Button Sebastian Vettel

GPDA letter in full

“Dear Formula 1 stakeholders, followers and fans,

“The Grand Prix drivers would like to state our following position: We drivers love our sport! Since childhood, we dreamed of racing the fastest race cars from the top teams on the coolest tracks against the best drivers in the world. We seek competition and love F1 almost unconditionally, which makes us most probably the people with the purest interest for Formula 1, beside our fans.

“Formula 1 is currently challenged by a difficult global economic environment, a swift change in fan and 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.

GPDA Australian Grand Prix

“We feel that some 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 future success. We know that among the leaders of the sport - be it the owners, their representatives, the governing body, the teams or other stakeholders - every individual acts with the very best intentions.

“Therefore, 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 can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock. This reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.

“We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula 1 to consider restructuring its own governance. The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short or long term, sporting, technical or business orientated should be based on a clear master plan. Such plan should reflect the principles and core values of Formula 1.

“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.

Australian Grand Prix

“Formula 1 has undoubtedly established itself as the pinnacle of motorsport and as such one of the most viewed and popular sports around the world. We drivers stand united, offer our help and support for F1 to keep it as such, and further to make it fit and exciting for many years and generations to come.

“It is important to state that this open letter is intended in the best interests of all and should not be seen as blind and disrespectful attack. Thank you for your attention and granting us the liberty to put our thoughts into words.

“Best regards, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Alex Wurz, on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers.”

XPB.cc Max Vestappen Carlos Sainz

What do you make of the GPDA’s letter? Does the governance of the sport need to change? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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