F1 will continue to speak out after Saudi chaos, says Drivers’ Association chair | Formula One


The chair of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Alex Wurz, has put F1 on notice that its drivers will no longer stay silent on issues such as where the sport races after they considered boycotting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The GPDA represents the 20 F1 drivers and the controversy in Saudi Arabia was, for Wurz, indicative of the sea change in the attitude of his members and across sport as a whole that has taken place recently.

“We can see that sport has undergone a very swift change over the last few years,” he said. “It really came to the surface with the issue of racism and with Black Lives Matter. Before, drivers were seen as sportspeople where the position was: ‘I am a sportsperson, I am not getting involved in politics.’ That time has really gone.

“In the last two to three years those young people have suddenly come to the position that they should have an opinion and that they should also talk and express their opinions and deal with their responsibility for it.”

The Saudi GP was already a source of unease for drivers because of the state’s terrible human rights record. Then, a missile strike within six miles of the Jeddah circuit on the Friday before the race led to the drivers agreeing the race should be cancelled. They were ultimately placated but are expected to meet with F1 during or shortly after this weekend’s Australian GP to air their concerns about racing in Saudi Arabia.

F1’s owners, who have the commercial rights to the sport and decide the calendar, are not going to cancel the hugely lucrative Saudi Arabian GP but that the drivers will require more input into how the sport is run now appears inevitable. F1 is invested in selling them as the stars of the show, a marketing tool that has worked well, however with it comes an emboldened generation who are aware of the potential power they wield.

Wurz admired the way they acted collectively in Saudi Arabia but was not surprised that they did so. “It’s definitely very impressive to watch that they strongly came together,” he said. “As they did so over the last few years, but now it is demanded of athletes. The transformation of young people taking this responsibility is impressive.

“We are talking about people who are dedicated to a professional life and they are going out and informing themselves and forming their opinions.”

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