F1: Nico Hulkenberg denies strike threat over wages ahead of Chinese Grand Prix

Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg said it was 'not good for the sport' that drivers were kept waiting for their wages and said discussions were underway while Romain Grosjean confirmed he has finally been paid by Lotus.

German Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday denied reports that F1 drivers were threatening to go on strike over unpaid salaries, but he called for quick action to resolve the problem. EPA/SRDJAN SUKI
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SHANGHAI // Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday denied reports that F1 drivers were threatening to go on strike over unpaid salaries, but he called for quick action to resolve the problem.

Hulkenberg said it was “not good for the sport” that drivers were kept waiting for their wages and said discussions were underway to find a solution.

Germany’s Sport Bild magazine claimed this week that several drivers for smaller teams, including Hulkenberg, who drove for Sauber last year, were still owed unpaid wages dating back to 2013.

It reported that the drivers’ union, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, had signed a document vowing to strike if the situation continued.

Hulkenberg, third in the drivers’ standings with Force India after three races, was asked about a possible strike at the Chinese Grand Prix on Thursday and said firmly: “No that is not true.”

He admitted, however, that unpaid wages were an issue for all the drivers.

“We are discussing that issue at the moment regarding unpaid drivers and it is something that is not good for the sport -- the pinnacle of motor racing,” said Hulkenberg.

“We have never discussed doing a strike but we want the issue to be addressed. And we want it to be improved.”

Hulkenberg admitted that with some teams struggling for cash, especially with the raft of technical changes brought in this season, it was difficult to know what action the drivers could take.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We all need to stick our heads together and see if we can come up with a solution.”

Earlier on Thursday, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean confirmed he has finally been paid by Lotus.

Former Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen revealed last year he was owed money by the Enstone-based marque and threatened to boycott the last two grands prix.

As it transpired, Raikkonen aggravated a long-term back injury in the race in Abu Dhabi and pulled out of the final two events in America and Brazil to undergo surgery.

Whilst Raikkonen was outspoken in his condemnation of Lotus’ actions, Grosjean opted for a different path and kept his counsel.

But the Frenchman has now revealed he was also in the same boat as Raikkonen, who has since moved on to Ferrari.

Following the implementation of a new management structure over the winter, Grosjean is finally able to pay his bills again.

“Since the new management has been in place, everything has been sorted and is good,” said Grosjean.

“But what happened was certainly not the way I wanted things to go. I never opened my mouth in front of the media because it was my own business, my personal thing.

“Kimi kind of launched the whole thing, that drivers hadn’t been paid and so on. It wasn’t easy for the guys (within the team), but things have now been made right.”

Asked whether motivation was a problem during the period when he was unpaid, Grosjean replied: “No because I don’t do this for money, I do it for me - although at some stages I was a bit worried for my rent!”

With a regular salary again, at least that is making the situation on track this season more bearable as Lotus remain plagued by technical issues.

Neither Grosjean nor new team-mate Pastor Maldonado have collected a point from the opening three grands prix of the current campaign.

But with a more reliable financial structure in place, ahead of this weekend’s race in China, Grosjean said: “At least now we don’t have the problems we faced in the past, which is good for us.

“After two successful years, going into a difficult season it can be very different.

“But everyone is trying as hard as they can to get the car as good as it can be, to move forward and not blame something they shouldn’t.

“We’re together, we’re united, because at the end of the day we’re all in the same boat.”

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