'Crash and burn' down the F1 road

McLaren, with driver Fernando Alonso in action in the recent Austrian Grand Prix, have not been able to live up to their past reputation as the second most successful team in F1, with no victory achieved since 2012.
McLaren, with driver Fernando Alonso in action in the recent Austrian Grand Prix, have not been able to live up to their past reputation as the second most successful team in F1, with no victory achieved since 2012.PHOTO: REUTERS

Alert comes from Whitmarsh who is pained by what's happening in sport

PORTSMOUTH - Former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says he is saddened by the current state of Formula One, and fears it may "crash and burn" before eventually recovering.

"I love Formula One and I love McLaren. I was there for 25 years. I am saddened by it," he said at a media day for British America's Cup yachting challenger Ben Ainslie Racing, of which he was appointed chief executive in March.

The Briton said he still watched the races on television as a fan.

"I am staying away as much as I can, and try not to comment on it, but I'm saddened by what's happening in the sport," added the 57-year-old, who was ousted by McLaren Group head Ron Dennis in January last year.

"I think it (the sport) will crash and burn before it gets turned around, in my view.

"It will do eventually but I'm sad to see it go through the process it's going through."

McLaren, the second most successful team in the history of Formula One, have not won a race since 2012.

They have scored only four points in eight races this season - the first of a new partnership with Honda.

Formula One has also suffered a wave of negativity with leading figures - including commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the bosses of former champions Red Bull - talking it down.

More recent headlines this week have focused on a possible sale of the sport to RSE Ventures, who own the Miami Dolphins NFL team, and Qatar.

Whitmarsh felt Formula One was still struggling to adapt to changing circumstances.

"If you look at the cycle... you had the sport as it was 30 years ago, then the tobacco era which was the big growth spurt, and the automotive era when we had at one time seven of the nine largest automotive companies.

"Then, that went away with the economic crisis and it's diversified; but in order to diversify, it also has to recognise, which it's struggling with, that it has to be doing it at a slightly different level," said Whitmarsh, a former head of the now-defunct F1 teams' association Fota.

"And it's also got to be a bit more equitable in terms of distribution. It is an ongoing argument and unfortunately, at the moment, it's led itself into a very difficult place."

The Briton was much more enthused by his new surroundings, even if there are many similarities between America's Cup yachting and Formula One.

"It was a pretty short conversation. I said I'd like to do that. Not planned, not long-term passion, just something very lucky to get involved with," he recalled of his response to Ainslie when Britain's most decorated yachtsman approached him to be CEO.

"He came to my home, we sat for about two hours and talked about it, and actually I just said I don't care about the money, I just want to do this," he said.

"I think this is a historic opportunity to do something that hasn't been done in 164 years, to try and win the America's Cup (for Britain)."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline ''CRASH AND BURN' DOWN THE F1 ROAD'. Print Edition | Subscribe