Sebastian Vettel: Mercedes dominance could turn people off Formula One
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel fears interest in Formula One will fall even further if Lewis Hamilton's dominance continues with Mercedes
Formula One risks abandoning its roots with “overcomplicated” rules and could see interest in the sport fall even further if Lewis Hamilton’s dominance continues, Sebastian Vettel has warned.
In an outspoken attack on the eve of the new season made on his personal website, Vettel claimed F1 had become too lost in technology and the focus should return to the drivers.
Vettel himself was accused of turning people off the sport when he won four straight championships from 2010 to 2013. This intervention almost exactly mirrors criticism of his reign made a few years ago by Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and others.
But Hamilton and Mercedes’ dominance has been unprecedented in its scale. They have won 32 of the last 38 races and with very few rule changes over the winter, the team head into this season as overwhelming favourites, even if there are hopes Vettel’s Ferrari have stepped up their challenge.
While Vettel was cautious on his team’s chances, he was remarkably frank on the state of the sport.
"In short, I think the sport should be in the spotlight and it should be about which driver is the fastest," the four-time champion said.
"Today the car plays an important role, like it did in the past. But we shouldn't get lost in over-complicated rules. Our audience has to be able to identify with our cars again. At the moment F1 is just too complex and we're lacking sound.
"The dominance of Mercedes in the past two years took away a lot of excitement for the fans. Plus the new rules focus too much on details. I think we have to be careful not to lose the roots of motor racing and I certainly hope the cars of the future will be more within their grasp."
Formula One has been trapped in a debate about what it should be for years, but this was dramatically heightened with the introduction of more efficient, but quieter, hybrid engines at the start of 2014.
Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s chief executive, has been seeking to implement new rules for 2017 which make the cars significantly faster, but they appear to have been watered down amid endless bickering among the teams.
The main hope for an exciting season is that Ferrari, with English technical director James Allison at the helm, can bridge the gap to Mercedes, mounting a proper challenge on Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s supremacy.
With one eye on the company’s flotation on the stock exchange, Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari president, has made optimistic predictions of the season ahead, but Vettel was more guarded.
"It's no secret that we are not still where we want to be, and there are things we need to improve," he said. “We know that our package was not strong enough to close in on Mercedes or overtake them, but we are working on it and we are on the right track."
Vettel also suggested that he could spend the rest of his career at Ferrari. The 28-year-old joined the Italian team from Red Bull at the start of 2015.
"I'm very comfortable where I am now and I don't think about other options," he added.
It could be [my last team]. I'm that kind of person who doesn't jump ship after just one year. I've never done such a thing before, in no area of life.
"I'm happy where I am at the moment. We have a common goal which we want to achieve together. Ferrari is special to me. Even as a small kid I dreamed about being a race driver for Ferrari in the future."
The first pre-season test starts in Barcelona on Feb 21, with the first race in Melbourne on March 20.