Leading Formula One drivers have been left angry and frustrated that their plea for reform has been dismissed by those in charge.
Jenson Button, one of the key men behind last month’s letter from the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association calling for F1 to have a restructuring of its own governance, said here on Friday: “Our comments were correct and made in the right manner. It’s up to people to reply in the right manner and try to move forward and make this sport better than it is. So far I haven’t seen any of that.”
In the last race in Bahrain two weeks ago, F1’s chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, responded to the drivers’ letter by saying: “They shouldn’t even be allowed to talk. They should get in the car and drive it.” Jean Todt, president of Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, questioned whether drivers were capable of understanding the sport’s governance.
The drivers’ carefully considered letter was written because of what they perceived as the recent lack of direction in the sport and after the new season had opened in Melbourne with the farce of the new qualifying rules, which have been abandoned for Sunday’s race.
Button said: “We love racing. It has to be the pinnacle of motor sport. So, from an emotional side of things we do have a view and it’s not from the business side of things.
“We have no ulterior motive. We want to go racing in the best cars possible and to help make the sport better. We’re not the right people to make decisions about what happens. But we can help and it seems that it needs help.
“The thing is I think 90% of the fans agree with us and this sport needs its fans. People who are making decisions need help from someone who is in love with this sport and not just here for business. Whether that’s going to happen or not, I don’t know. But there’s a lot of interest in what we said and the response hasn’t been what we expected – or probably was what we expected – but hopefully we can move forward from this and we can help improve.”
Nico Rosberg, another of the most experienced and articulate drivers, said: “We want to try and support F1 with opinions and give it a little bit of direction. We know best. We’re in the car. Nobody else really knows, so we really can help and we also think we have a really good understanding of what everybody else at home is looking for.”
Rosberg and Button were backed up by the three-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who called for changes to the weekend race format. “There are so many things we need to do and we need to experiment but, unfortunately, I don’t see anything positive happening,” he said. “For the past 10 years, it has been the same Thursday through to Sunday and jeez, I love the driving but if the format was different, we could please the people. They just shouldn’t be afraid to try things. No new ideas have come out since we dropped qualifying.
“This year is an opportunity to come up with some new ideas, test some things. Twenty-one races of the same weekend, we should mix it up a little. Maybe on different weekends, we could have different scenarios.”
The sport has the chance to redeem itself this month when teams sit down to discuss the rules and regulations for 2017, but no one is very optimistic.
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