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Motor racing-Formula One drivers to launch global fan survey

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By Alan Baldwin

MONACO, May 20 (Reuters) - Formula One drivers are to ask fans worldwide for their opinions in what they are billing as the most thorough survey ever carried out by any sport.

A statement by the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) said the initiative will be formally presented on Thursday in the Monaco paddock by directors Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Alex Wurz.

"With the GPDA Global Fan Survey, the grand prix drivers aim to create the most extensive, in-depth survey of fan opinion ever undertaken by any sport in the world," it added.

GPDA chairman Wurz told Reuters earlier this month that the drivers wanted to give more back to their fans, at a time of change when unfavourable comparisons are being made with other series.

"To make sure this sport remains at the pinnacle and gets ever more popular, we would like to engage more with the fans," said the Austrian, a former Formula One driver who now competes in the world endurance championship and is a two-times Le Mans winner.

"I hope it's cool. The fans will tell us if they like it or not and that's what we want...we want to give a little bit back and communicate with the people who love the sport equally to us," he added.

Formula One has a reputation for being exclusive and inaccessible compared to series like the world endurance championship, where fans have much more access to the paddock and drivers during race weekends.

The sport has also been through major change, with the introduction of V6 turbo hybrid engines last season, and more upheaval to come.

The sport's key Strategy Group announced after a meeting last week that a proposal to reintroduce refuelling during races had been put forward for 2017, as well as moves to make cars quicker, louder and more aggressive looking.

The changes have yet to be approved by the governing body's Formula One commission and World Motor Sport Council, with mixed views already about refuelling which was banned in 2010 for reasons of cost and safety. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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