Formula One: Don't tinker with GP formula: Vettel

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who won the season's first race in Melbourne, at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. The German has cautioned owners Liberty Media against making sweeping changes to attract a new spectator
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who won the season's first race in Melbourne, at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. The German has cautioned owners Liberty Media against making sweeping changes to attract a new spectator base.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI • Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel has warned against tinkering with the sport to make it more fan-friendly under its new American owner, saying "too much change is wrong".

The Grand Prix circuit has entered a new era with its recent acquisition by US-based Liberty Media after decades under the control of Bernie Ecclestone.

There had been complaints that, under the 86-year-old Ecclestone, Formula One failed to move with the times by staying entertaining, and has paid the price with plummeting fan interest.

But Vettel, a four-time champion who surged to a comprehensive victory for Ferrari in the Australia season-opener, said suggestions such as trimming the number of races or their duration are misguided.

"I am maybe very old-school on many things," the 29-year-old German said in Shanghai ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

"I think that some things we shouldn't change.

"I think it's wrong to change too much."

DON'T COMPROMISE TRADITION

I think by making it shorter, it would be more exciting but I think it's not a grand prix any more. I'm a bit sceptical about change for the sake of change.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL, cautioning against debate over whether to cut the number of races each season or shorten the races.

The sport had been criticised for boring races, a lack of razzle-dazzle and all-too-predictable dominance by Mercedes and Ferrari.

Formula One now hopes to appeal to a younger, global, social media-savvy audience.

Vettel acknowledged that shorter races would be "more exciting" but added that reducing track time for the benefit of attention-deficit millennials would also reduce the challenge of the sport.

"That's the Grand Prix. That's how it's always been. (Races have) been even longer in the past if you look a long way back, and it should remain a challenge," he said.

"I think by making it shorter, it would be more exciting but I think it's not a grand prix any more.

"I'm a bit sceptical about change for the sake of change."

Vettel's 11-second victory over reigning champions Mercedes in Australia put the German constructors on notice.

But Vettel said: "I think Mercedes have to be still the favourite obviously. We had a very, very strong first race but the way we look at it on the team is we go race by race."

At the weekend, Vettel will be back behind the wheel of "Gina", as he has named this season's car.

"It's just a bit of fun, to have a bit more of a relation (with the car) than just calling it 'the car'," he said.

"I name my car but it is not like I stroke her in the morning when I come in, and again in the evening."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHINESE GRAND PRIX
Practice 1 & 2: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 9.55am & 1.55pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'Don't tinker with GP formula: Vettel'. Print Edition | Subscribe