Deja Vu as Vettel warns of a possible drivers' strike

12/03/2020
NEWS STORY

In 1982, as the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) continued to wage its war with the F1 constructors, the sport's governing body decided to take on the drivers also.

Introducing a raft of new measures absolutely guaranteed to cause unrest, the final star was a new clause which effectively banned drivers from negotiating contracts with other teams, thereby giving total control of their careers to their current employers.

In the days leading up to the season opener in South Africa, with a number of drivers still to agree to the new terms, Didier Pironi and Niki Lauda, returning to the sport following his retirement three years earlier, led their colleagues in disputing FISA's bid to control them.

As fans waited for the opening practice session to get underway on the Thursday, the majority of the drivers weren't even at the track, having retired to a local hotel to discuss the situation.

What followed was the F1 drivers' strike, as the drivers barricaded themselves in the hotel's conference room and remained in situ overnight.

To keep them entertained, Gilles Villeneuve and Elio de Angelis played piano, and Lauda told jokes. As night fell, the drivers slept on the floor on mattresses.

FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre finally relented and the race went ahead, the governing body subsequently removing the offending clauses.

Fast forward to 2020 and once again the opening race of the season is under threat, as Sebastian Vettel warns that should the coronavirus situation deteriorate he and his colleagues would not hesitate to "pull the handbrake".

"I hope others would agree, and we hope it doesn't get that far, but if it were to get that far then for sure you pull the handbrake," Vettel told reporters.

"I think we are a group of twenty guys and I think we've got together over the last years for various circumstances on various topics, and I think we share common opinion on big decisions and that.

"I would qualify it is a very, very big decision and ultimately, as I said before, you look at yourself. And we would, I think, be mature enough to look after ourselves and pull the handbrake in that case."

Other than the fact that it is unlikely any of the current lot would be happy to sleep on the floor - far less antagonise their bosses and sponsors - one wonders who might provide the overnight entertainment.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Melbourne, here.

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Published: 12/03/2020
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