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F1 drivers elect Romain Grosjean new GPDA director

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Romain Grosjean has been made a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association by his fellow Formula 1 drivers, taking over from Jenson Button.

After stepping back from his McLaren F1 race seat at the end of last year, Button has not been present at any grands prix so far this year, but is due to race in Monaco when Fernando Alonso is at the Indianapolis 500.

The GPDA held a vote for its new director during the Russian Grand Prix weekend, with Grosjean being nominated by his peers to take over the role.

Grosjean races for NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ eponymous F1 team, and is one of the sport’s longest-serving drivers, having made his debut back in 2009 with Renault.

Grosjean joins fellow director Sebastian Vettel and chairman Alexander Wurz in running the GPDA.

“In the GPDA assembly held in Sochi on Friday 28 April, Romain Grosjean was elected GPDA director, replacing Jenson Button who stepped down from the position as a result of not permanently racing in the 2017 F1 world championship,” a short statement from the GPDA reads.

“I am proud to have been elected by my peers as director of the GPDA. We race drivers don’t always hold the same opinion, but as a group we are united in wanting the best for our sport,” Grosjean said.

“I believe was have an important role and duty to coordinate between each other and support the stakeholders in the evolution of the sport.”

“It was a pleasure working with Jenson over the past few years as he always puts in the interests of the drivers and the sport first. Thanks JB for all your effort,” Wurz added.

“Over recent years Romain has been a very active GPDA member. He has a lot of energy and thoughts about our sport and Sebastian. I welcome him as a great addition to the Grand Prix Drivers Association board.”

F1 drivers united behind GPDA letter calling for change

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A number of Formula 1 drivers have expressed their support for the letter issued by the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) last month calling for change in the sport’s governance structure.

Following the patchy implementation of a new qualifying format for the Australian Grand Prix and ongoing discontent with the decisions being taken by F1’s top powers, the GPDA wrote an open letter that called for widespread change.

The letter marked the politicization of the GPDA and a first united call from the drivers for a change in F1’s direction.

A number of drivers expressed their support for the letter ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso saying it is a first step towards helping improve F1.

“I think the letter says everything. We love the sport,” Alonso said.

“We love it so much that maybe we think the last couple of years we’ve been a little bit moving left and right with not a clear direction and we want to help in any of the things the fans want, the drivers want, the sponsors want, that are quite clear in some of the things we’ve been searching in the last couple of years.

“It’s a supporting letter from all of the drivers that we do care about our sport and we would like to get involved in some of the decisions or in some of the things that we could help somehow.

“It’s a start. It’s the way the sport is moving in the last couple of years, maybe we don’t see it completely right.”

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg stressed the importance of keeping fans happy, using the discontent voiced over qualifying as an example.

“We’re all united on this opinion because we love the sport and can see the fans are criticising some aspects that we could do better,” Rosberg said.

“We could be even more exciting as a sport and we want to question whether or not the F1 governance cannot review the process in which decisions are made in all these things to try to get it to a point where we can get some better decisions done and become a more exciting sport.

“There’s recent examples, with this qualifying where the fans are just at home and they’re not happy with it. We’re racing for the fans. Mostly for the fans. That’s the examples that are now the recent cases.

“Even the rules for next year. We’re putting on more downforce although actually we should be trying to help overtaking. More downforce is known for making overtaking and following other cars more difficult. It’s not necessarily the right way.

“With all of these things we are saying that we would like to be more involved, have more of a say, us drivers – so let’s see where this takes us.”

Felipe Massa added: “I totally agree with both of them. All the drivers are united on this letter that you guys saw. We just want to be part of changing, to improve the sport.”

Despite not being a GPDA member, Max Verstappen said that the body’s letter did sum up the thoughts of the entire grid.

“We are all united so it’s not that if you’re [not in the GPDA you’re] not a part of the whole letter,” Verstappen told NBCSN.

“I think all the drivers agreed on that.”

Ecclestone responds to GPDA letter, agrees F1 decision-making process is obsolete

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Bernie Ecclestone has issued a response to the letter written by the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association that called for a restructuring of Formula 1’s “obsolete” governance structure.

In a move that saw the GPDA become politicized in F1 for the first time, calls were made to change the existing structure in a bid to avoid repeating some of the “disruptive” recent decisions that missed some of the bigger issues blighting the sport.

In a letter first reported by BBC Sport that has since been posted on social media, Ecclestone agrees with the drivers that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete.

He asks the drivers to go away and think about ways in which the sport’s governance can be restructured, before pointing out a grammatical error in their statement at the end of his latter.

Here is Ecclestone’s letter in full.

Dear Gentlemen,

I am not sure if this is the right description. It is not always to agree with you but you are correct in stating that the decision making process in the sport is obsolete and ill structured.

We must as you have stated urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula One to consider restructuring its own governance.

It is easy to analyse what is wrong so why not think and come back on this. At least it is better to think before you wish.

I have been in Formula One for nearly fifty years in an active role and another eighteen involved in some way. You state that every individual acts with the very best intentions. I am not sure if this is a misprint. If not, it should read “with their very best intentions”.

Best wishes,

Bernie

Grand Prix Drivers Association slams F1’s decision makers

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Here’s one for thought: the drivers in F1 have seemingly grown increasingly frustrated by the decision makers and rules makers of the sport, and have now penned a letter slamming them.

Here’s the letter in its entirety, as just posted:

23.03.2016

Driver Position Statement:

Dear Formula 1 stakeholders, followers and fans,

The Grand Prix drivers would like to state our following position:

We drivers love our sport! Since childhood, we dreamed of racing the fastest race cars from the top teams on the coolest tracks against the best drivers in the world. We seek competition and love F1 almost unconditionally, which makes us probably the people with the purest interest for Formula 1, besides our fans.

Formula 1 is currently challenged by a difficult global economic environment, a swift change in fan and consumer behaviour, and a decisive shift in the TV and media landscape. This makes it fundamental that the sport’s leaders make smart and well considered adjustments.

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 the sport is facing and in some cases could jeapordise its future success. We know that among the leaders of the sport – be it the owners, the representatives, the governing body, the teams or other stakeholders – every individual acts with the very best intentions.

Therefore, 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. Indeed, it can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock. This reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit from the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.

We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula 1 to consider restructuring its own governance. The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short or long term, sporting, technical or business orientated should be based on a clear master plan. Such plan should reflect the principles and core values of Formula 1.

We need to ensure that F1 remains a sport, a closely-fought competition between the best drivers in extraordinary machines on the coolest race tracks. F1 should be home only to the best teams, drivers and circuits, with partners and suppliers fit for such an elite championship.

Formula 1 has undoubtedly established itself as the pinnacle of motorsport and as such one of the most viewed and popular sports around the world. We drivers stand united, offer our help and support for F1 to keep it as such, and further to make it fit and exciting for many years and generations to come.

It is important to state that this open letter is intended in the best interests of all and should not be seen as blind and disrespectful attack. Thank you for your attention and granting us the liberty to put our thoughts into words.

Best regards,

Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Alex Wurz, on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers

@GPDA_, #RacingUnited for our safety, our sport, our fans

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Wurz to retire from motorsport after WEC finale

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Ex-Formula 1 driver and current GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz will retire from motorsport following the final race of the FIA World Endurance Championship season in Bahrain next weekend.

Wurz took part in 69 grands prix over 11 seasons, making his debut in 1997 with Benetton before spending much of his time in F1 as a reserve driver with McLaren and Williams.

The Austrian switched his focus to sportscars from 2008, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Peugeot the following year.

Wurz joined Toyota in 2012 upon its entry to the FIA WEC, balancing his racing duties with heading up the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association from 2014.

In a statement issued on Monday, Wurz confirmed that he would be hanging up his helmet after 20 years of racing following the final WEC race in eight days’ time.

“After 12 years as a race and third driver in F1, I was lucky to indulge a passion for Le Mans Prototype racing for a further 8 seasons,” Wurz wrote.

“That means I’ve enjoyed half of my lifetime competing at the top of motorsport and another quarter of it working my way up there, so I feel the time is right to call it a day and bring my career as a professional racing driver to a close.

“I’ve a lot to be grateful for and a lot I’m proud of. My two Le Mans wins will always be the most special and unforgettable, along with the Silverstone podium in my 3rd Formula 1 race.

“In F1, I feel hugely privileged to have driven for top F1 teams like Benetton, McLaren and Williams, and added a bit of silverware to their trophy cabinets. I loved the testing and development work, collaborating with the engineers to find ever more performance.

“LMP1 brought some epic battles and crushing retirements. Nothing beats the Le Mans podiums, but the Sebring 12h, Petit Le Mans and securing Toyota’s first WEC victory were pretty special too.

“Endurance racing, especially Le Mans, has to be one of the harshest sports. I’ve lead most of the Le Mans 24h races I have raced in. But it was our 15 hour lead in last year’s race that ended with retirement that had to be the hardest. I’d put so much effort into 2014 and into the race preparation that I found it very difficult to move on after the DNF.

“In previous years, such a defeat made me come back stronger, ready to launch into the fight again, but not that time. This was the moment I knew that my time at the sharp end was coming to a natural end. The WEC Bahrain 6 Hours will mark this end.

“So a big thanks to the racing community for the challenges, the battles and the victories, and to the fans, the teams, the competitors, the organisers, the volunteers and especially to my family!

“My future will still evolve around racing, it’s in my blood after all. Anyone who knows me, knows that I always have lots of projects on the go which includes growing my road safety and race track design business.

“You will still see me around, just without the overalls.”