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Drivers in grid boycott

NEWS STORY
14/03/2010

Most of the drivers taking part in today's Grand Prix opted to take part in a boycott of the pre-race grid procedure in protest at the decision not to grant passes to their physios.

As TV commentators searched the grid seeking drivers in an attempt to glean information about how the season opener might develop, the F1 stars were noticeable by their absence.

Normally one or two make a last minute dash to the toilets for a final splash and dash while others prefer to spent the time playing out their start and race strategies in their heads.

However, the reason today's grid looked like F1's equivalent of the Marie Celeste was a little more political, the drivers were showing their unhappiness with Bernie Ecclestone's decision not to grant grid passes to their personal trainers and physios.

In addition to maintaining their diets and looking after their bodies, the physios play an important role in the final moments of the pre-race preparations, helping their charges mentally and physically prepare for the battle that lies ahead.

Therefore, when it was revealed that the numbers of passes was being reduced the drivers had little choice but to make their unhappiness felt.

While one can sympathise with Ecclestone's supposed desire to cut down on the number of people wandering about on the grid before events, it seems odd that driver's are forced to sacrifice their personal gurus while a pass can be found for 'celebrities'. Ahead of today's race, for example, British 'comedy political impressionist' Rory Bremner was seen talking to Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian appearing not to have a clue who the man was.

It is understood that should Ecclestone not relent - he rarely does - the drivers will stage further protests.

Over the years, drivers protested various situations on a number of occasions, however, the most famous incident was when almost all the drivers locked themselves into a hotel room overnight ahead of the season opening South African Grand Prix in 1982 in a dispute with FISA over a new clause in their licences. While Elio de Angelis and Gilles Villeneuve provided the music, Didier Pironi led the negotiations with Jean Marie Balestre.

The following day the strike was settled and the GP weekend resumed, the drivers looking none the worse for their night shacked up together.

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