F1’s topsy-turvy 2012 risks turning off confused fans, Jenson Button has warned.
The McLaren driver was the first of the sport’s five winners so far this season, with a sixth this weekend to create all-time history.
But while some are enthralled by the unpredictability, a slightly “worried” Button warned that the time will come when fans will cease to understand the sport.
“I think it will get to a point where they will wonder who they are supporting and why someone is winning and someone is losing,” he told reporters on Friday.
“Why is everyone a loser and everyone a winner?”
Button said traditional F1 engineering has been turned on its head in 2012, with the sport’s cleverest minds often resorting to doing “the opposite” of what their intellect and experience suggests in order to tweak a car.
“It is very strange,” he said, “and it is all because you cannot get the tyres in the right working range.”
Flavio Briatore, who admits to working on a set of alternate regulations at present, laughed when asked about the spectacle of 2012.
He said the odd Pirelli tyres are having the same effect as a “budget cap” — equalising the best and the less-financed teams.
“With all due respect to Maldonado, it’s a bit strange that he’s able to beat Alonso in a Ferrari,” said the flamboyant Italian.
“We need some balance in the degree of surprise,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.
Reigning world champion and current joint championship leader Sebastian Vettel on Friday denied that F1 has become akin to a “lottery”.
“Let’s remember when the same people said that Michael Schumacher winning everything was boring,” the Red Bull driver told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.
“But of course we have to be careful that F1 remains a sport, and a sport cannot appear artificial.”
F1 veteran Jean Alesi, this weekend preparing for his first Indy 500, said the 2012 winner will not have won a lottery but will have put together the most consistent campaign.
“Look at Alonso,” he told Austria’s Laola1. “His car is not even among the best four in the field yet he is leading with Vettel.”
Times journalist Kevin Eason agreed: “If F1 is now a gamble, why are the three leading drivers in the world championship – Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton – also the trio rated highest by most pundits?”
At any rate, David Coulthard thinks the ‘spectacle versus purist’ debate is a valid one.
“It raises fundamental questions about racing and entertainment and what we want to see from formula one,” the former Red Bull and McLaren driver wrote in his Telegraph column.
“But I don’t agree with the premise that grands prix are now a lottery. I’m yet to see anyone say the tyres are inconsistent from set to set.
“This is all part of the formula one battle,” he insisted.