Formula One: Sebastian Vettel wants to put the brakes on changes to the sport

Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari smiles during a press conference ahead of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit on April 6, 2017.
Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari smiles during a press conference ahead of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit on April 6, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Formula One's season leader Sebastian Vettel on Thursday (April 6) warned against tinkering with the sport to make it more fan-friendly under its new American owners, 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 helm of longtime ringmaster 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 world 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 were 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."

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

Formula One now hopes to appeal to a younger, global, social media-savvy audience and this season has introduced wider new machines and broader tyres that are expected to provide more noise and spectacle.

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