F1 driver union achieves full membership, focuses on improving spectacle

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The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) has achieved full membership, with every driver on the Formula One grid committed to the push to improve the sport.

GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz said the union had achieved 100 percent membership for "maybe the first time in history" -- Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, two of the grid's world champions, were previously among those had not joined the organisation. This year saw drivers unite as concerns grew about the current spectacle and the direction the sport is headed.

Speaking to the BBC, Wurz said: "F1 is entering a period of evolution, change and perhaps even a degree of turmoil. All the drivers recognise that they must be united and represented, in order to face that challenge and prevent any politics or fights for power from ultimately compromising on track performance. The drivers believe unity is fundamental for the sport's success."

This year saw F1's ownership change hands, with American media company Liberty Media taking control of the sport, ending the Bernie Ecclestone era. Liberty wasted little time putting its own stamp on the sport, bolstering its technical departments while also investing in teams to oversee areas such as marketing, sponsorship and commercial considerations.

It also placed fan engagement top of the agenda. This included a new approach to race weekends, a popular live demo on the streets of London, and boxing announcer Michael Buffer introducing drivers in the style of a heavyweight boxing fight ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix.

Despite these new initiatives, concerns still linger about the on-track spectacle. F1's new cars increased cornering speeds and lowered lap times, but the season saw overtaking moves go down by half compared to 2016. Liberty is also keen to tackle the financial disparity between teams and is believed to be assessing how to successfully implement a cost cap to control spending and create a more level playing field.

The GPDA outlined concerns currently held by drivers:

• The increasing use of asphalt run-off areas and subsequent abuse of track limits
• The rise of pay TV and fewer viewers/followers as a result
• Over-regulation and the penalty system
• The difficulty of overtaking and lack of track action
• Negative press spirals due to political fights via the media
• The lack of noise from engines
• Badly thought-out television camera angles that do not portray the speed and drama of the cars
• The differences in the budgets between the leading and other teams and the resulting gaps in performance

Wurz added that drivers are united in the belief that, if the on-track spectacle is not good, the rest of the discussions and political arguments in F1 are irrelevant.

"The GPDA demands only that the sport remains the centre of attention and we want to hold everyone in the decision-making process accountable for their actions and decisions," Wurz is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. "All adjustments to the sport should only be done and conducted in the best interest of the sport and not of any one individual, and this is what unites the drivers, this sheer will to keep F1 as the pinnacle of motor racing.

"We consider F1 as sport, not show. A driver rightly so calls himself a sportsman and not showman, because its still about the most natural human aspiration - to go faster, higher, quicker. Great sport is what we love to see, if great sport is embedded in a suitably created show and race experience , that would indeed be good.

"If the sport sucks, everything around the sport itself is only expensive, inauthentic and semi irrelevant. We need on track competition, but not artificially created. We can't be naive about the situation which F1 is in, with its complicated governing rules and agreements between various key stake holders.

"Business decisions and political power fights have damaged the sport enough at vulnerable times over the last decade. But the GPDA has repeatedly said that the on track action needs to be better, more closely fought and authentic. As such, we are glad that Liberty and their technical research team follow the GPDA's suggestion from more than a year ago, where we wished for a less sensitive airflow concept of aerodynamic-related rules in order to be able to race closer."