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GPDA finds its voice

NEWS STORY
25/01/2016

Over the years it has long been a source of irritation at Pitpass that whilst the sport's 'owners', governing body, teams, engine manufacturers, tyre manufacturers, circuits and sponsors have a say, the drivers - those at the coal face, those putting their lives on the line - appear to have no input.

Indeed, no better example could be given than last year, when, following a couple of high profile incidents, a number of drivers, including Sebastian Vettel, spoke of their concerns over the current tyres, only to be firmly told to keep their opinions to themselves.

Whilst it is understandable that teams and sponsors will be keen that their drivers maintain a certain image and tow the party line, hence the prosaic press releases, surely when it comes to safety the men in the cockpit have the right to make themselves heard.

Finally, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), effectively the drivers' union, has found its voice, and through its chairman, Alex Wurz, is pushing for improvements.

Other than the ongoing gripe concerning tyres, in the wake of a number of high profile incidents, most notably the death of Jules Bianchi following his c rash at Suzuka in 2014, the drivers are also pushing for action in terms of improved cockpit safety.

"The research the FIA experts have done is very thorough and the process has brought forward a clear solution," Wurz told BBC Sport. "Now the drivers feel it's time to implement the extra protection at the latest in 2017."

The FIA tried a number of proposals last year, but it is the 'halo', which sees two curved 'arms' which run from either side of the back of the cockpit and meet in a 'V' beyond the steering wheel that the drivers favour, feeling that it will not only give added support if a car is flipped but will also protect drivers from flying debris.

"Obviously structural changes are required to the chassis but, with almost a one-year lead time, I don't see any technical person speaking against such substantial safety improvements, especially given the last big accidents in open-wheel racing involved head injuries. So all the drivers, and I, hope that passing the additional head protection will be a formality."

As for tyres, Wurz revealed that the drivers (unlike their employers) are unanimous in wanting a change to the current philosophy whereby tyres are 'managed', and instead, whilst still stressing that safety is paramount, they want tyres that can be pushed.

"They want a tyre that "allows them to push and extract everything possible from these extraordinary race cars again, because that's what F1 is about," said the Austrian, "the pinnacle of motor racing which we all love.

"The drivers want to underline very clearly that they would love Pirelli to produce a tyre which goes faster around corners as well as being safe. If we get sticky tyres, we will have happy drivers, and happy drivers means authentic and honest performance, pure message for the product and driving the cars to the maximum.

"That's what we want and, according to the fan survey we did last year, what all the fans expect."

Although the tyre regulations have been modified this year, drivers have not been given the free choice from the entire compound range they requested, instead Pirelli is nominating three compounds with the caveat that two particular compounds must be used in qualifying and the race.

Indeed, the tyre compounds offered for the opening four races are the same.

Now that the GPDA has finally found its voice, let's hope that it uses it to good effect.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by F One, 26/01/2016 21:34

"There's a picture of it on the BBC report on the same subject Tweek. It looks hideous but if it might save lives then I suppose? It's not as if F1 cars have looked good for some time now anyway. (and unless they get rid of the only low noses allowed rule then they never will again)"

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2. Posted by Tweek, 25/01/2016 16:45

"Stickier tires with a life span of..... Say 10-15 laps would make for more interesting battles on track and more pitstops which will add variety and opportunity for pit lane mistakes.

I wish the story had included a pic of the driver halo. It's hard to imagine based on the description, but it sounds like a good idea!"

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