The Grand Prix Driver’s Association (GPDA) is a group of F1 drivers joined by common issues such as safety and other racing elements that the members feel are important to not only the series but also the wellbeing of the drivers who participate.
F1 is a sport of teams and individuals on many levels and while Kimi Raikkonen faced a difficult relationship in 2013 with the Lotus F1 team due to a portion of his salary—if not all of it—not being paid, it has also come to the attention of the GPDA that there are more drivers in the same position as Kimi was in 2013. In fact, this may be an issue that has been lingering for some time now.
Sky Sport F1 had an interesting piece today on the likelihood of a driver’s strike this weekend—one presumes that rumor is floating around the paddock for Sky to pick it up—but Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg has scuttled those rumors:
“In the media, there have been reports of striking, but that is not what we have discussed in the GPDA. Yes, we have talked about the issue and we want measures against it, but a strike is not a possibility.”
The challenging issue is that drivers need the drive as their careers depend on it and the teams—especially those experiencing serious financial difficulties—are not in a position to pay the drivers what they may have been owed. The fact still remains, the driver needs the seat regardless if they are to further their career and have any chance to stay in F1. The teams know this as well and it may be why the issue has been slightly out of the public’s view.
So hiring a veteran like Raikkonen is how you gain serious skill behind the wheel instead of finding a rookie with wads of cash to pay for their ride. The issue is, not paying Kimi becomes a serious matter.
It’s that fine line when a driver’s performance demands payment instead of paying for the seat but Kimi was returning to the sport so Lotus may feel they were taking a gamble and their willingness to bring Kimi back ensured he got a high-paying role at Ferrari. Regardless, Raikkonen had a contract to be paid for his services and has said that he was not paid.
The article also suggests that Nico Hulkenberg also has not been paid for services at Sauber in 2013. As with Kimi, Nico is the type of driver that should be paid for his services such is his skill and consistency. Both drivers were with teams on the cusp of financial challenges judging by media reports and they had drivers they clearly wanted but possibly couldn’t afford. That’s one way to guess at the situation.
Another way to speculate may be some obligation or performance clause that wasn’t met and the teams feel they have no obligation to pay the drivers. They may be completely justified in not paying them. Regardless, the GPDA is discussing the issue so clearly there is a problem with some drivers and their current or past teams.
A cursory look seems to suggest that this is a legal matter between the driver and the team and not really a mission for the GPDA and even Hulkenberg says he isn’t sure what can be done from the organization’s perspective:
“I don’t know [what can be done], but that’s what we’re working on,” the Force India driver told a later press briefing.
“We all need to stick the heads together to see what we can do and come up with a solution.”
It’s not easy to be in a position where people want/need your talent but don’t really want or can’t pay for it—I know, I’ve been there and I am sure many of you have too—but it isn’t always malicious in intent, it may be simply an issue of cash flow. This brings us to the whole notion of paying drivers, cost caps and limited team resources to compete in the world’s most expensive form of motorsport. Things are getting tight in F1 and unfortunately everyone is feeling the pinch…even the fans.