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GPDA attacks 'unfair' licence price

Formula One drivers in Singapore 2008The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) has blasted the FIA's dramatic increase in fees for a mandatory superlicence as 'unfair' - and claims competitors should not be forced to provide a revenue stream for improved safety in the sport.

As reported last month, F1 drivers have been holding back on signing their superlicences because they are unhappy about the significant rise in fees over the past two seasons.

They claim that the F1 superlicence is now the most expensive licence payable by any sportsperson in the world, with the $270,000 (USD) fee for the world champion dramatically higher than the $4000 (USD) that a NASCAR driver has to pay for their documents.

Following suggestions by FIA president Max Mosley this week that drivers' claims of hardship because of the fees were 'nonsense', the GPDA has issued a statement arguing its case that the escalating costs are unjustified.

"The drivers contend that the Super Licence fees should not be a revenue stream for the FIA and such a change constitutes a major departure in principle for both past Super Licence fees and fees for any other drivers' licences," said the statement. "The FIA should raise sufficient funds from the exploitation of its commercial rights.

"As a principle, the drivers should not be taxed to fund the costs of others fulfilling their legal duty to the drivers. It is the teams' duty to provide the driver with a safe car, it is the circuit owners' duty to provide a safe circuit and it is the duty of the manufacturers to provide helmets, fireproof overalls, etc. fit for the purpose of safety.

"The FIA, as the governing body, has a duty to impose safety regulations and to supervise through licensing the parties carrying out their duties, e.g. licensing a circuit. The licensing process for drivers is to ensure that the drivers are competent to race at the level necessary in Formula One."

The statement confirmed that the licence fee had risen from 1690 Euros in 2007 to 10,000 Euros in 2008 - with the points fees rising from 447 Euros per point in 2007 to 2000 Euros in 2008. Further increases for inflation have been introduced for this season.

The GPDA has said that drivers were not consulted about the rises - and it disputes suggestions by Mosley that they have not responded to suggestions they provide him with details of their earnings.

"These increases were made without any prior consultation with the drivers, and the first the drivers knew of the increases was when the invoices were received by their respective teams and via the media in January 2008," said the statement. "The proposed increases are inherently unfair, both in the way they were introduced and the way they impact on individual drivers.

"Since these increases were introduced by the FIA, they have been opposed unanimously by the drivers because they are unreasonable and unfair. The GPDA has - on behalf of all drivers holding Super Licences including the non-GPDA members - appropriately and professionally sought to resolve the issue privately with the FIA throughout the 2008 season, culminating in a meeting with Mr. Mosley at the Italian Grand Prix last September which opened up the way for further discussion.

"This included a request from the FIA to the drivers to disclose their gross earnings. However, Mr. Mosley is incorrect in his claim to the media that he had not received an answer from the drivers as a letter was sent by the GPDA in December declining the request because it was not relevant to ascertaining the appropriate Super Licence fees.

"Furthermore, drivers' gross (and net) earnings are confidential to the drivers, their management and financial advisors and any relevant tax authorities, and should be respected as such.

"In fact, Mr. Mosley himself alluded to such confidentiality in recent correspondence with the GPDA. On the subject of whether the Super Licence is paid by the team or the individual, Mr. Mosley concluded it was a private contractual matter between the driver and his team, and not a matter for the FIA."

The GPDA has said it will be happy to pay an index-linked rise in superlicence fees based on the 2007 figures, and also find a way to meet a budget shortfall that it claims the FIA is facing.

"The drivers are not opposed to a reasonable increase in the Super Licence fees, the fee which should cover the administrative and other costs relating to the issue of the licence," added the statement.

"Therefore, the drivers have offered to pay the 2007 Super Licence fees adjusted upwards by inflation for the 2008 season with a corresponding increase for the 2009 season.

"In addition, the drivers have offered to explore fair ways in which they can assist the FIA in raising funds to meet the apparent EUR 1.7 million shortfall required to run the Federation in 2008 and a further EUR 3 million shortfall that will be required in 2009, according to the figures cited by Mr. Mosley at Monza."

It is not clear what the next step is for drivers regarding payment of the superlicence fees, but Mosley has made it clear that no driver will be allowed to race without paying up.

"All I can say is that nobody is going to drive in a world championship race in Australia unless they have a superlicence," said Mosley.

"In the present climate, somebody who is earning several million a year and doesn't want to spend one or two percent of that to get a licence for his trade is not going to get a lot of sympathy. And maybe we will have a quiet Friday in Melbourne..."

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