Formula One drivers criticise sport's decision makers in extraordinary letter

24 Mar 2016 04:53

Formula One drivers have launched a scathing attack on the decision-making in the sport, which will disappear almost completely from terrestrial television in 2019.

On the day an open letter was published on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) urging team owners and stakeholders to reviews its governance, Sky Sports announced an exclusive contract to broadcast the sport until 2024.

The 463-word letter, almost unprecedented in its nature, is signed off by Britain's Jenson Button and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and comes only days after red-faced bosses agreed to ditch the sport's elimination-style qualifying format which made its dreadful debut at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

"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 our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success," the letter read.

"The drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress being made.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 for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.

"We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula One 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 One."

Channel 4's time in the sport looks set to be short-lived, meanwhile, with Sky agreeing a six-year contract to be the exclusive rights-holder in the UK.

While Sky has said that the British Grand Prix, as well as highlights of the other races, will be shown on a "free-to-air" basis, the news is likely to come as a huge blow to the millions of fans who watch the sport on terrestrial TV.

Nearly three million people tuned in to watch Channel 4's highlights of Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, with the broadcaster new to the grid this season after the BBC surrendered its deal three years early.

"I am delighted that we will continue to work together," said Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's chief executive of Formula One Management's new deal. "Sky's commitment to the sport and standard of coverage is second to none."

As well as making the British Grand Prix available for free, Sky will also show highlights of qualifying and races without charge.