Motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, this week introduced the new prices for the FIA Super Licence, upsetting several F1 drivers, who feel the price increase is unfair.
You really have to hate professional sportsmen at times. It’s not enough that the majority of them are famous and have the privilege of being (debatably) talented enough to earn millions a year in wages and lucrative sponsorship deals, have women falling at their feet, and generally have life easy compared to your average guy in the stands cheering them on.
Let’s take a look at the figures.
Last year, a driver requiring a Super Licence had to pay 1,725 euros (£1,354) plus 456 euros (£357) per point won, but FIA president Max Mosley has increased it to 10,000 euros (£7,858) plus 2,000 euros (£1,570) for every point won.
I agree that a 400 per cent price increase is maybe too high based on any real sense, but even for a modestly paid F1 driver who might actually have to contribute to his Super Licence fee; it’s hardly going to break the bank.
The fee is retrospective, so it will be interesting to see if the FIA try and force a retiring driver to pay for his points haul for the season before, as he jets off to his luxury home of one of Europe’s few tax-free havens.
So, for current F1 World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, and last year’s runners-up Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, that’s around £180,000 this year just for their licence to race this year.
When drivers are earning a reported £25 million a year in the case of Raikkonen, and £10 million a year if you’re Hamilton and Alonso, it’s not much of a problem but the riches of the sport don’t extend down to the back of the grid where some drivers are averaging around a few million a year, or instead relying on their own sponsors to get a drive in F1.
In a year where taxes are going up on just about everything, and the retail price of everything from bread to fuel is going up, the FIA have decided to get in on the act as well. Put simply, it’s a tax on winning, the better car you have and the more you win, the more you pay. Has Max been talking to British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown?
At a time when Mosely’s position as FIA is continually under threat and his relation with the important players in F1 deteriorates, he’s not buying himself any favours here with the drivers continually complaining that the FIA fails to listen to their recommendations on matters of rule changes and safety and has reportedly failed to meet them regarding the price increase while sticking it up them with lining the FIA's pockets.
For their part, the drivers have already made some noise about it, with the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GDPA) discussion what options are open to them, with some suggesting they might even take industrial action, while all agree the price increase is unfair.
It’s ludicrous to think that some of the drivers may strike because of a licence increase, likely to be at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone next month. It would lead to yet another farcical situation in F1, even if the teams could replace the drivers with test drivers and draft in other contracted drivers.
GPDA director, Alonso has certainly been quite vocal on the matter, and is prepared to take part in protests whatever they may be, as the GDPA look to discuss the situation further over the course of the French Grand Prix weekend.
However, Raikkonen and Hamilton are not members of the GDPA and would likely race each other even if everyone else pulled out at Silverstone. After all, there is a world championship to be won, and that brings more money to a driver, a team and their sponsors.
Seriously, millionaire racing drivers striking because they’ve been asked to pay more is a bit rich to your average supporter. I’d like to know how many of the drivers actually have their licence paid for them by their teams or sponsors, and just how many are in opposition for opposition’s sake.
Either way, Max Mosely and the FIA have another problem on their hands, and it could just add fuel to the fire of an F1 breakaway from the FIA where the teams and the drivers are afforded a genuine say in how their sport is run.