Formula One drivers have all decided to pay their superlicence fees in a bid to prevent their dispute with the FIA overshadowing the start of the season, autosport.com can reveal
However, the drivers remain deeply unhappy about the huge hike in fees that was introduced at the start of 2008 and have requested face-to-face talks with FIA president Max Mosley prior to the Australian Grand Prix to discuss the matter.
The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) had been urging its members to hold back on paying for their mandatory licences as it tried to find a way of restructuring how the fees were calculated.
It felt that a rise 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 was 'inherently unfair'. A further increase for inflation had been added for this year.
Mosley remained defiant on the matter, however, and wrote to the drivers to say that he felt the fees were 'reasonable' and that drivers were free to race elsewhere if they were not happy.
With no easy resolution to the matter, there were mounting fears in some quarters that the row could result in a drivers' strike in Melbourne - although such a scenario had been ruled out by several leading drivers.
But with just four weeks to go before that first race, and teams putting drivers under pressure to process the superlicence paperwork, high level sources have confirmed to autosport.com that all drivers have now agreed to pay the fees.
It is understood that over the next week those drivers who have not yet submitted their superlicences to the FIA will do so, to join the six that have already been lodged by their teams.
Despite the decision to press ahead with paying the licences, a GPDA source said there was no question of the drivers backing down in their bid to change the fee structure - and they still believe the fees should revert to an inflation-adjusted version of the 2007 figure.
The source told autosport.com that the drivers have only agreed to pay for the licences because they did not want to force some racers into a confrontation with their teams, or to cause trouble in Australia - which would be unfair to fans.
It is understood that the GPDA has written to the FIA to express its feelings on the matter, and to request a face-to-face meeting with Mosley to discuss the situation as soon as possible.
"The drivers are all unanimous on this," said a source. "We must meet Max before the Australian Grand Prix."
Although not confirming the drivers' stance on Thursday, Williams driver Nico Rosberg said during a pre-season media event for his team that there was a common feeling amongst drivers about the matter.
"Don't underestimate the strength of us drivers all sticking together," he said. "The sport needs us. All of us. Don't underestimate us."
The Williams team revealed on Thursday that they were the first team to lodge the superlicences for their three drivers.
CEO Adam Parr said: "We just pay the fees, full stop. They're paid."
When asked if he had any sympathy for the drivers' plight, Frank Williams said: "I don't worry about it myself. I don't need to. It's best between them and the FIA."
It is understood that one other team has also lodged the licence paperwork with the FIA for their three drivers.
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