Why the drivers are right to kick up a fuss

In the past couple of weeks the Super License row has blown up again. After this year’s bill landed on the drivers’ doormat, there were more rumblings of a possible drivers’ strike. This was said to be a prospect at the 2008 British Grand Prix, but in the end nothing came of it and the drivers coughed up.

This year’s increase is a relatively modest increase to take account of inflation. But it seems that the drivers were expecting the Super License fees to go back down having made their views very clear about it last year. No such luck. The GPDA issued a press release, the first time they have done such a thing according to Brad Spurgeon.

Grandprix.com called the press release an unwise move. Certainly, the decision to release it on Friday evening — when the rest of the world is off to the pub for the next 60 hours — displays an incredible lack of media savvy, even for a club of simple racing drivers.

But I can’t agree with the overall sentiment of the article. It may be difficult to feel much sympathy for some of the most highly-paid sports stars in the world. But questions need to be asked about quite what the FIA is playing at.

The 2008 increase took the basic fee up from €1,690 to €10,000. On top of that, the extra fee for each driver increased from €447 per point to €2,000 per point. Such an increase will come as a shock no matter how rich you are.

All in all, this allowed the FIA to increase their takings through the Super License by 454%. This increase has still neither been explained nor justified by the FIA, except something vague to do with safety (as though all the safety measures only came in during 2008). Safety is a nice get-out for the FIA. As often argued by Grace on the Formula 1 Blog.com podcast, the FIA know that no-one will be able to argue against “safety”, so they use that to explain anything without having to actually justify it.

The GPDA’s statement notes that this year the World Drivers’ Champion (i.e. Lewis Hamilton) will have to pay $270,000 simply for the right to compete. (It is worth noting that Lewis Hamilton is not a member of the GPDA, so this issue is not simply about Lewis Hamilton.) Outside of F1, the highest license fee is $4,000 which a Nascar driver has to pay. That is minuscule compared with the FIA’s Super License fee.

Formula 1 drivers may be rich. But they earn their money. That is because they are among the very most supremely talented individuals in the world — which is a lot more than can be said for certain presidents of certain governing bodies. It looks suspiciously like the FIA has calculated that F1 drivers will receive little sympathy over this issue, and so have decided to exploit them to extract as much money as possible.

As has been noted by others many times, for the past few years the FIA has appeared to be on a complete money grab. It is not just the drivers that have faced a fee hike in recent years.

The FIA proposed to increase a team’s entry fee to the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship from €300,000 to €740,000. Again, safety was used as the excuse. Alianora La Canta noted.

Then there is the ONE HUNDRED MEELION DOLLARS fine handed out to McLaren in 2007. The FIA have still not revealed what on earth they have spent that money on.

Despite these handy new sources of income, the FIA has somehow contrived to increase its budget shortfall for 2009. Keith Collantine looked into this and you have to wonder just what is going on at the FIA.

The shortfall of €1.7 million in 2008 was bad enough. Somehow this has almost doubled to €3 million for 2009. The FIA’s sheer incompetence never ceases to amaze me. Maybe it is because Max Mosley thinks nothing of disposing of upwards of £1 million for his own personal gain when it would have been much easier, cost-effective and dignified to just do the honourable thing and step down.

Max Mosley may have scoffed at the notion of Fred Goodwin replacing him as FIA President. But it seems to me that the FIA could do with the help of someone who has a bit of experience in managing money. (Then again, maybe I only say that because I am Scottish and I have no understanding of how F1 or the FIA work. Though I don’t think I am unusually stupid.)

So even though the drivers’ plight may engender little sympathy among the general public as a whole, they are still right to make a stand. Someone needs to ask some serious questions about why the FIA is taking in ever more money, yet ending up with ever higher shortfalls. It’s time that Max Mosley and the FIA were held to account for this, because to me it just stinks to high heaven of something fishy.

3 comments

  1. Funny how there is a lot of money swilling around in the F1 world, but it all seems to end up in either Bernie or Max’s coffers…

  2. I’m not even sure it’s Max’s coffers that the missing money has ended up in. There are any number of suspects, most of whom are faceless bureaucrats.

    The $100m that got paid to the FIA went into young driver and road safety schemes, distributed by a five-person board specially appointed for the purpose. Note the board included both Ferrari and McLaren members to avoid bias. However, I would argue that a responsible leader would have plugged funding gaps before attempting expansion.

    I have a feeling that if Trudi Coughlan hadn’t gone to the local copy shop with the Ferrari document, that the FIA might be in the process of going bust by now. So maybe the Ferrari/McLaren mess wasn’t entirely bad…

  3. […] Duncan Stephen, em seu blog, Doctorvee, assina um inteligente artigo questionando as reais intenções da FIA na aquisição de mais e mais dinheiro nos últimos meses, explorando não apenas os pilotos, mas também as equipes, aumentando a licença para que elas corram em 2009. Assim como para os pilotos, a justificativa para tal aumento recai sobre medidas de segurança. […]