(GMM) The days are over when Formula 1 drivers could stay out of political matters.
That is the view of Alex Wurz, a former F1 driver who is now president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association – the union representing the active drivers in Formula 1.
In Saudi Arabia recently, reports emerged that the Wurz-led GPDA had united in a potential threat to boycott the Jeddah race as a response to nearby missile and drone strikes.
Ultimately, they were persuaded to drop the boycott, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff denies that any “coercion” took place.
“There was no pressure from our side,” Wolff insisted. “Perhaps that was interpreted in a different way by the outside world.
“But in the end the spectacle was great and what we delivered as a sport was a good show and I think this is what sport should do.”
What is clear, however, is that the drivers are becoming more and more outspoken about wanting a bigger say in the key decisions that affect them.
Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and others, meanwhile, are now becoming conspicuously active on other political, social and environmental issues.
“We can see that sport has undergone a very swift change over the last few years,” Austrian Wurz told the Guardian newspaper.
Last year, for instance, seven time world champion Hamilton spearheaded the Black Lives Matter message in the F1 paddock.
“Before, drivers were seen as sportspeople where the position was ‘I am a sportsperson, I am not getting involved in politics’,” Wurz said.
“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.”
And even though the Jeddah boycott ultimately came to nothing, Wurz thinks the drivers are finally making their voices heard.
“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.”