Paris – Former world champions Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel on
Wednesday led calls for a radical rethink in Formula One, insisting that
controversial changes threaten the sport’s very future.
The two drivers put their names to an open letter from the Grand Prix
Drivers Association (GPDA) describing technical and sporting changes
They also blasted the world championship decision-making progress as “obselete and ill-structured”.
Although the letter does not specify particular grievances, it is
well known that drivers are unhappy with a number of developments in a
sport which is fighting claims it has become dull to watch.
Amongst recent criticisms have been the new qualifying system
introduced at the Australian Grand Prix at the weekend, the share of
income down the grid as well as a fear of declining television audiences
with Formula One increasingly broadcast on pay-to-view.
“Formula One is currently challenged by a difficult global economic
environment, a swift change in consumer behaviour and a decisive shift
in the TV and media landscape,” said the GPDA letter.
“It is fundamental that the sport’s leaders make smart and well-considered adjustments.
“We feel that some recent rule changes – on both the sporting and
technical side, and including some business decisions – are disruptive,
do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases
could jeopardise its future success.
“The drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making
process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents
progress being made.
“This reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit for the
next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.”
The opening race of the 2016 season in Melbourne on Sunday followed a
familiar pattern with Mercedes taking a one-two finish thanks to Nico
Rosberg and world champion Lewis Hamilton.
But it wasn’t a weekend without problems.
The much-maligned experiment with knock-out qualifying ended in farce
with spectators paying through the nose to look at an empty track in
the final few minutes.
Former world champion Niki Lauda said it was the “biggest nonsense”
he had ever seen in F1, while supremo Bernie Ecclestone didn’t waste so
many syllables, calling it “crap”.
Four-time champion Vettel had already complained on the eve of the
season that Formula One should not be about complicated rules and
Another former champion Fernando Alonso said changes made driving less fun.
“I’m sad for the sport… cars are probably not as fun to drive as a couple of years ago,” said the Spaniard.