Superlicense row rumbles on

fiaThe Formula One drivers have moved to justify their complaints about the markedly higher cost of a F1 superlicence this year following comments from FIA President Max Mosley who dismissed as “nonsense” claims that the drivers would face financial hardship as result of the fee increase.

Following a price hike last year – which triggered fears that the drivers would boycott the British Grand Prix – Formula One’s governing body has once again increased the cost of the superlicence with the basic fee rising to £9,798 (an increase of £377) and the additional cost for each point increasing from £94 to £1,978.

The drivers, via the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), have reacted angrily to the fees and have attempted to delay the processing of their superlicenses by calling for a review of the fee system.

Besides the price increase itself the GPDA also takes issue with the lack of consultation and the principle that drivers should be taxed to cover costs in areas such as driver safety and track improvements which fall within the legal remit of others.

FIA President Max Mosley revealed on Thursday that the GPDA had written to the FIA asking them to review the fee system, a request that he will only comply with if the drivers provide details of their gross income.

“They said there was hardship, so I wrote to them saying that if you give me your total earnings I will have a look,” explained Mosley during a media lunch in London on Thursday, according to autosport.com.

“Obviously if there is hardship then we will rearrange it. But for some reason they didn’t want to give me their total earnings. (But) I think it is all nonsense. Anybody who has got a lot of points has got a lot of money.”

The drivers have refused to provide details about their income on the grounds of confidentiality, bringing negotiations to a standstill – not to mention the process to sign-off the superlicences ahead of the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne.

“Mr. Mosley is incorrect in his claim to the media that he had not received an answer from the drivers as a letter was sent by the GPDA in December declining the request because it was not relevant to ascertaining the appropriate Super Licence fees,” the GPDA said in a statement.

“Furthermore, drivers’ gross (and net) earnings are confidential to the drivers, their management and financial advisors and any relevant tax authorities, and should be respected as such.

“In fact, Mr. Mosley himself alluded to such confidentiality in recent correspondence with the GPDA. On the subject of whether the Super Licence is paid by the team or the individual, Mr. Mosley concluded it was a private contractual matter between the driver and his team, and not a matter for the FIA.”

It is unlikely that the FIA will back down in the current economic climate and the push to reduce costs in Formula One. Furthermore, the drivers are doing themselves no PR favour by drawing attention to the scale of the fees in comparison to their vast salaries.

“In the present climate, somebody who is earning several million a year and doesn’t want to spend one or two percent of that to get a licence for his trade is not going to get a lot of sympathy,” Mosley said.

Mosley has made it clear that the drivers will not be allowed to compete in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix without a superlicence, and alluding to last-minute negotiations he said: “Maybe we will have a quiet Friday in Melbourne…”

“I haven’t had any superlicences put in front of me to sign by drivers, but that doesn’t usually happen for another four or five weeks,” he said. “All I can say is that nobody is going to drive in a world championship race in Australia unless they have a superlicence.”

With thanks to Autosport for quotes.