Ecclestone: F1 needs overhaul to cease being "engineers' championship"

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone thinks the time has come for a total rewrite of the sport's rules book to make it more exciting – claiming grand prix racing has now become an "engineers' championship".

Ecclestone: F1 needs overhaul to cease being "engineers' championship"
Start: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W06 leads
Bernie Ecclestone,
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W06 leads behind the FIA Safety Car
Bernie Ecclestone,
Start: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 leads teammate Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Bernie Ecclestone,
Bernie Ecclestone,
Max Mosley, FIA President
Max Mosley, FIA President
Max Mosley FIA President
Max Mosley, FIA President

In a lengthy joint interview with former FIA president Max Mosley conducted by German channel ZDF, both men have made it clear that they think F1 has diluted too much the role of the driver.

They believe the time has come for a wholesale rethink – either through totally new regulations or a strict enforcement of current rules to outlaw driver aids.

Ecclestone says that F1 has lost too much from the drivers no longer being central to the action – with engineers now having a major influence on performance.

“When people say to me who do I think was the best driver, the name I come up with, and most people don't agree with me, I say Alain Prost,” he said.

“Prost had to look after his brakes, gearbox, everything, and he did a good job. So he finished more races and finished in a better position, whereas today they don't have that.

“They sit there on the starting grid and there is an engineer who starts the race, it is just not on.

“It should be when the lights go off they are on their own. They don't need somebody telling them your [team-mate] is using that through this corner. It is just not on.”

He added: “It is an engineers' championships more or less. I am not saying Lewis [Hamilton] is not a super driver, but he is given a hell of a lot of help.

"I would like to see him in a GP2 car with the GP2 drivers... I am not saying he would not win, but it would be interesting.”

2017 tweaks not enough

Although F1 chiefs are pushing on with changes to make cars faster and more challenging for 2017, Ecclestone thinks the tweaks are not enough.

He suggests there is nothing he has heard from the Strategy Group that makes him feel encouraged that things will be dramatically better.

“I sit on the Strategy Group, I would like to know what they [the changes] are going to be. They are like all the other rules.

“[The rules] are like an old Victorian house, people keep doing things to it – but it needs pulling down and starting again.

"You cannot cross the line and add that, put this in place of that. We need to rip it up and start again.”

Mosley: ban driver aids

Mosley agrees that the technology has got out of control – and thinks F1's attraction is being lessened because of it.

“The fundamental thing is that a lot of the technology is so complex that nobody understands it,” he said.

“I will give you an example, you can look on the Internet and see a picture of a modern F1 steering wheel with all the buttons and so on – I have followed it for the past 30 or 40 years and I could not tell you what most of those buttons were for.

“And we bought in a rule that driver aids were prohibited, meaning the driver had to drive the car and not a computer. It is a constant battle to stop the computer taking more and more the functions. 

"I think there is a big argument for a back to basics [approach], where the driver has a steering wheel and maybe even a gear lever, and brakes and an accelerator and a very powerful engine and he has to get on with it.”

He added: “It is supposed to be a double competition: men and machines but if the engineering competition starts to take over from the human competition, F1 in my opinion loses an essential element."

Strict enforcement

Mosley suggests that a rewriting of the rules may not be needed – and a simple enforcement of regulations that demands drivers drive the car alone and unaided could be the answer.

“I think you will already find there is a rule we brought in in 1994, it is very simple and says driver aids are prohibited,” he said.

“The teams agreed to that at the time because they said you can never define what a driver aid is: and they forgot that, if you are the regulator, a driver aid is whatever you say it is.

“So you have the possibility of eliminating all these outside helps from the engineers, radio and computer control, by enforcing rigorously that rule. But you cannot do that without upsetting people….”

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