Drivers downplay talk of a strike
|By Simon Strang||Thursday, June 19th 2008, 16:57 GMT|
Formula One drivers think a strike at next month's British Grand Prix is not a realistic possibility despite their growing anger about the increased costs of a Formula One superlicence.
The FIA said in January that the price of a licence would increase to 10,000 euros plus 2,000 euros extra per point scored this year, up from the previous 1,725 euros cost with 456 added for each point.
It means leading drivers will be paying in excess of 200,000 euros from now on.
That move angered drivers, who are not happy with the price hikes or the fact that they were not consulted over the decision when it was made.
Their frustrations have been talked about in recent meetings of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), with some suggestions of them taking strike action at next month's race at Silverstone.
GPDA director Fernando Alonso said: "It is a very serious matter, and we were talking about (the) superlicence price in the last couple of GPDA meetings. It has to be agreed between us, and we all agree that it is not fair that from one year to the next it (the cost) increases 500-600 percent.
"It is something we need to look at, and I don't know what will be the solution and what will be our effort, but if there is a strike in Silverstone then maybe it is one possibility."
Asked how much his superlicence would cost, Alonso replied: "I don't know, more than 200,000 Euros. It depends on how many points you score in the championship, so next year for me will be cheaper!
"Anyway, I prefer not to pay too much. It is a problem we all face, sooner or later. I think it is a ridiculous price."
The drivers are not only unhappy about the rising cost of the licenses, but also that some drivers at the beginnings of their career are unfairly penalised for success.
Robert Kubica, who like Lewis Hamilton made an impact by scoring a batch of points in his debut season, suggested that young successful drivers do not always get paid in equal measure to the cost of their superlicense.
"I agree with what Fernando said about the cost of a superlicence which has increased quite a lot over the last year," said Kubica. "It is quite a lot of money especially if you are scoring points, like Lewis did last year in your first year in Formula One."
But despite his strong feelings, Kubica thought a strike would be highly unlikely to take place.
"Drivers who have a quick car but are not scoring points do not care because they don't have to pay," said Kubica. "So I think it will be difficult to get all the drivers to have the same idea. But we are trying to convince the FIA to reduce the costs."
World champion Kimi Raikkonen added that he would prefer to see a diplomatic approach to the problem, though he agreed that he felt the license fees were too high.
"For sure I support the thing," he said. "I don't think there is any reason for us to go on strike and not race.
"A strike is never going to happen, that all the drivers will do it, so hopefully some nice solution will be found someway."
Alonso explained that the GPDA was planning to discuss the matter during its meeting in Magny-Cours on Friday, but that it had already contacted the FIA to express its concerns on more than one occasion.
"We approached the FIA two or three times, always by letter," he said. "And with not a positive answer, so we didn't agree on anything. We will see."
FIA president Max Mosley said in January that the reason behind the escalated stepped fees was to ensure that young drivers weren't forced to pay huge prices while not earning big salaries from frontline teams.
"The thing is, if someone is earning 30 million or whatever some of them earn, it's not so bad," he said. "If you are down the back end, if you haven't got a point, it's 10,000 euros.
"To people earning their kind of money, it's not a drama. I'd settle for that, if someone said you can have 20 million if you pay 250,000 for a licence."
The FIA uses all the money from the licence fees goes to improve safety in the sport.