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Proposed F1 changes reflect need for stronger leadership

22 May 2015, 21:21

Monaco - First there were strategy meetings to discuss how to make Formula One more exciting again. Then came a fan survey this week aimed at gathering even more ideas.

What's still lacking, according to both teams, drivers and F1 management officials, is strong and resolute leadership to actually carry through with the changes.

Also read: Rosberg looks to pressure Hamilton at Monaco GP

A strategy group has proposed an overhaul from 2017 onward to make the sport more exciting, and drivers launched a global fan survey in 12 languages this week in an effort to bring back alienated supporters. But although the high-profile strategy group, made up of Ferrari and Mercedes, governing body FIA, and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, agreed last week on bringing back refueling, more aggressive-looking cars, louder engines, and faster lap times, none of these changes are official yet.

Ecclestone says matters drag on, and he also wants a greater input from FIA president Jean Todt.

"We should stop mucking about, asking opinions. The problem is we're too democratic," Ecclestone told reporters at the Monaco GP. "If Jean and I agreed ... I said to him the other day if you come up with something sensible you've got my votes. Whatever it is I'll support you, and vice versa. We should say 'these are the rules of the championship, if you want to be in it, great.'"

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso says the fact changes are being proposed "means that the last four or five years were going in the wrong direction" in terms of winning fans back.

Slower races, less noise and a lack of overtaking are among the current problems affecting viewers' enjoyment.

"In Malaysia this year, the engineers made a calculation that the winner this year compared to the winner of Malaysia in 2006 could be six laps slower," Alonso said.

At the Spanish GP two weeks ago, Nico Rosberg won unhindered from pole position and Vettel finished 45 seconds behind in third place.

"What (do) the fans want to see? They want to see entertaining races, they want to see overtaking," Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said. "If cars are one-and-a-half, two seconds ahead of the rest of the field, this cannot be in the interests of the other teams (or) the fans. The fans want to see fights."

There have been few fights this season, with the exception of Vettel's win in Malaysia, and the only one last season was internal as Lewis Hamilton and Rosberg feuded during their title battle.

With Mercedes taking all five pole positions so far the sport lacks a thrill factor.

"If you give me paper now I will give you the grid order of here, Canada and Austria and I will miss one or two positions," Alonso said. "This is what the fans are not welcoming now."

The ongoing issue of cost control also remains a thorny one.

"After 18 months I think we failed totally to agree on any form of cost control. There's absolutely no way there is going to be any equitable distribution of income," Force India team principal Robert Fernley said. "I don't think the Strategy Group is fit for purpose and we should be looking at something where we have a clear program."

Teams are fed up with having to continuously discuss what they should be doing.

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff says F1 "needs to have a proper governance" while Fernley adds that "the teams should be told where Formula One is going."

Widespread agreement is limited when teams are left to discuss their fate.

"It's rather predictable. Bob's going to ask for more money, Toto's going to not want to change anything and we want to change engines," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "Every team has got its own agenda and is going to fight its own corner. I think that the sport is governed by the FIA and it's promoted by FOM (the commercial rights holder). It's those guys that need to get together and say 'what do we want Formula One to be?'"

Horner and Tost called for greater communication at the top.

"I think that Bernie and Jean need to get together and say 'this is what we want the product to be, this is how it needs to be governed,'" Horner said. "Putting it in the team's environment to try and agree a set of regulations, you're never going to get everybody on the same piece of paper."

Horner says the only thing the strategy group unanimously agreed on and implemented this year is that "drivers should wear the same crash helmet all season."

Ecclestone echoes Fernley's view that the strategy group should be scrapped.

"Yeah, absolutely. It's very difficult for the constructors to come up with anything," Ecclestone said. "Nothing was decided (at the last meeting). We didn't even decide on the date of the next meeting. We could have voted on something and put it through."

- AP


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