The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) has succeeded in boosting its membership numbers by convincing previous high-profile sceptics, including Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil, to join the organisation, AUTOSPORT can reveal.
With the GPDA having endured a difficult 2008, with world championship frontrunners Lewis Hamilton, Massa and Kimi Raikkonen not members, its chairman Pedro de la Rosa together with directors Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber worked hard throughout last winter to get the doubters back on board.
With big progress being made on the eve of the season as Hamilton signed up to the GPDA for the first time since he entered F1 in 2007, AUTOSPORT has learned that Massa and Sutil also agreed to become members at the same time.
With a host of reserve drivers and F1 rookie Sebastien Buemi also joining up, it means that Kimi Raikkonen is now the only regular driver who has not yet agreed to become a member.
De la Rosa said he was delighted that the likes of Hamilton and Massa were now on board - which comes after a winter when the GPDA helped agree with the FIA a reduction in super licence fees for all drivers.
"It is important we are all there," de la Rosa told AUTOSPORT. "It is great news that Lewis, Felipe and Adrian have come on board, but also that test drivers like Christian Klien are there too, and new drivers like Buemi. It's quite reassuring.
"I admit we were weak last year, especially when Felipe left. But he has come back, and I'm glad he has. I'm really delighted about Lewis being there too."
De la Rosa said he hoped Raikkonen, who is still considering becoming a member, would also sign up to ensure that every driver on the grid is in the GPDA.
"We wish Kimi was there, as he is one of the top guys, so hopefully he will agree soon too," said the Spaniard.
"The GPDA is an important organisation. Although the drivers fight each other on the track, we must be able to work together off it to solve problems. I believe the GPDA today is stronger than ever."