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Drivers in dispute over licence costs... again

NEWS STORY
24/01/2009

A dispute over the cost of superlicences, which led to speculation that F1 drivers might go on strike, has resurfaced, with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) calling on the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) to look into the matter.

We reported last January, that previously, the basic fee for a superlicence was around 1,285 plus an additional 340 for each additional point scored the previous season. However, for 2008 the basic cost of the licence was increased to 7,451 plus a further 1,490 for each point scored the previous year.

Justifying the hike in price, FIA President Max Mosley said: "We spend a fortune on safety and most of it is for the benefit of the drivers. A lot of the people who have otherwise been meeting the bill said 'Hang on a minute, these drivers are all earning megabucks and we are spending a fortune to try and make sure they are safe.' So hence the increase.

"The thing is, if someone is earning 30 million or whatever some of them earn, it's not so bad," he added. "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."

At the time, there was talk of a strike, with Fernando Alonso warning that action might be taken at Silverstone: "It is something we need to look at," he told reporters. "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."

The drivers were not only against the basic price hike, they also felt that while some of the more established successful drivers might be able to afford it, newcomers would find it difficult, using Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica as examples.

"It's quite a lot of money, especially if you are scoring points like Lewis did last year and it's your first year in Formula One," said Kubica. "But another point is that experienced drivers who don't have a quick car are not scoring points, so they don't care because they don't have to pay."

Despite the huffing and puffing, the drivers eventually paid up, aware that there were plenty of young hot shots out there who would be only too willing to fill their cockpits should they take 'industrial action'.

However, this year, the FIA has chosen to raise the cost yet again - it's inflation don't you know - with the cost of the superlicence going up by around 4 percent and the cost per point rising by around 5 percent. With an additional 2,564 being imposed for compulsory insurance, Hamilton, for example, will have to pay over 200,000 this year.

The drivers aren't happy, and once again there is talk of "action", with the GPDA telling its members not to sign their superlicences until the issue is resolved.

However, in these difficult times all of us are feeling the pinch, to put it mildly. And while many of those within F1 are patting themselves on the back with regards the new cost cutting measures, much of this tightening of belts means redundancy further down the chain, the banning of in-season testing being a prime example.

Who better to voice an opinion than a team member recently made redundant for this very reason.

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