1982 South African Grand Prix strike

Sign on the pit wall following the strike

Short account of the only strike in Formula One history, an almost unanimous 24 hour sit in in response to contractual changes.

In January 1982, the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) drew up new superlicense conditions that would tie drivers to 3 year contracts. They also had to sign an agreement not to "harm the moral or material interests or image of International Motorsport or the FIA Formula 1 World Championship".

Drivers Didier Pironi, Niki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, Rene Arnoux, Bruno Giacomelli and Andrea de Cesaris refused. When FISA said changes could only be made after the race, Pironi said there wouldn't be one.

In the morning of the Grand Prix, a coach was waiting outside the drivers' hotel. With all on board except Jochen Mass who thought the strike was doomed, they drove to the Sunnyside Park Hotel. When the president of Formula 1, Bernie Eccelstone, heard the news, he said "We have been watching Ferraris for fifty years. Ferrari has had God knows how many drivers. They come and go but still all that people want to see is a Ferrari. They cannot see the bleeding driver anyway! Really, I ask you, what asset are they?"

To prevent the strike from weakening, the drivers locked themselves in a room together. However one driver did leave, Teo Fabi, reportedly by climbing out of the bathroom window. Keke Rosberg would say later "He ran like a chicken and lost our respect forever – not because he left, but because he betrayed us. He went straight to Ecclestone and Balestre, and told them everything we had discussed." When a team owner and hired muscle tried to force their way in, the door was barricaded with a piano.

With talks unsuccessful and only Mass' car practicing, the drivers were suspended. When they received news, there was a round of applause. Pironi stated "We are determined to stay together to resist any pressures that the team managers might try to exert to make us drive. There's no need for a vote. We are completely united. We are not going to drive unless the conditions are changed." but they did go on to race. Despite assurances of no reprimands, $5000 to $10000 fines and further race suspensions were given. These would later be reduced and the FISA withdrew the new superlicense clause.

Comments

flaneur
Apr 28 2013 16:01