Bernie wants ideas to revive Formula 1

PHOTO: REUTERS

F1 boss agrees that drivers are correct to call for overhaul, amid growing disenchantment

LONDON • Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone says that he agrees with the drivers that the rules structure in the sport is wrong and that the time has come for change.

On Wednesday, the drivers took the remarkable step of openly criticising the way their sport is being run, mounting a revolt against Ecclestone, the governing body (FIA) and F1's business structure.

In their condemnation of the current governance, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) described F1's decision-making process as "obsolete and ill-structured".

In a reply to the GPDA, which was leaked on social media yesterday, Ecclestone said that F1's owners and all stakeholders must now consider an overhaul.

"It is not always easy to agree with you but you are correct in stating that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured," said Ecclestone in the letter.

"We must, as you have stated, urge the owners and all the stakeholders of Formula 1 to consider restructuring its own governance."

IMPROVED VISION

The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short- or long-term, sporting, technical or business orientated, should be based on a clear masterplan.

THE GPDA STATEMENT, referring to a lack of control in the sport headed by Bernie Ecclestone.

In his typical humorous style, Ecclestone also suggested that the drivers had made a mistake in suggesting that those with F1 had always worked with "the best intentions".

The 85-year-old wrote: "I have been in Formula One for nearly 50 years in an active role and another 18 involved in some way. You state that every individual acts with the very best intentions. I am not sure if this is a misprint. If not, it should read 'with their very best intentions'."

Ecclestone asked the drivers to come back to him with ideas about how to improve the situation.

"It is easy to analyse what is wrong. At least it is better to think before you wish," he wrote.

The drivers were not explicit about the detail of their concerns, but they said some recent decisions are "disruptive", avoid "the bigger issues" and "could jeopardise F1's success".

The GPDA statement read: "The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short- or long-term, sporting, technical or business orientated, should be based on a clear masterplan."

It was a clear reference to the apparent lack of control at the top of the sport, once embodied by Ecclestone but now appearing to be characterised by various vested interests unable to come up with coherent plans, and often flailing from meeting to meeting with half-hearted and often half-baked results.

Although the drivers' strong reaction was almost certainly precipitated by the failure of the new qualifying procedure at the first race in Australia on Sunday, trouble has been brewing for some time.

Spanish driver Fernando Alonso said this month that he was "sad for the sport", that "there are too many changes and that the complexity of the rules for the spectators is quite high", while Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel noted at testing that "the decisions lately and so on, it is fair to say it is lacking leadership".

The new qualifying system's introduction was indicative of the malaise the GPDA is attacking.

The drivers noted that they, alongside the fans, had the "purest interest" in F1 but insisted that the structure at the top needed to change: "We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula One to consider restructuring its own governance."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Bernie wants ideas to revive Formula 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe