Grand Prix drivers called on Wednesday for Formula One to change the way it is run and abandon ‘obsolete and ill-structured’ decision-making processes that they said could affect the sport’s popularity.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) set out their views in a strongly-worded open letter, signed by champions Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel as well as chairman Alex Wurz, to stakeholders and fans.
It called for Formula One’s owners to “consider restructuring its own governance” and said the sport needed to base its decisions on a “clear master plan” reflecting core values.
“We feel that some recent rule changes – on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business directions – are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success,” it said.
“The drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress being made,” the drivers added
“Indeed, it can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock.”
The letter, a rare intervention by the drivers who normally focus on specific racing issues, said the sport was “challenged” by a difficult global economic environment, changing consumer behaviour and a shift in the television and media landscape.
It added that the decision-making process reflected negatively on the sport, compromising global growth and preventing it being fit “for the next generation of fans”.
The GPDA represents most of the Formula One grid, with some exceptions, and serves as a common voice and negotiating body with the commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone and governing International Automobile Federation (FIA).
While the opening race of the season in Australia last weekend served up plenty of excitement, a new qualifying format that was rushed through only weeks earlier came in for widespread criticism.
The final eight-car elimination phase saw little track action with cars parked up long before the finish instead of producing a battle to the final seconds.
The same team bosses who had agreed the new format, with the FIA and Ecclestone, said on Sunday that it had not worked and the sport should go back to the old system before the next race in Bahrain.
Formula One also endured in controversy in 2014 when double points were awarded for the season’s final race in Abu Dhabi – a move that was abandoned for 2015 after a backlash from fans.
Talks on changes for 2017 have also been kicked further down the road, with the core Strategy Group that includes the top six teams, the FIA and Ecclestone, failing to agree any substantive measures in March.
The way in which the sport’s revenues are distributed is another sore point, with the struggling smaller independent outfits unhappy that the big teams take far more.