A week before F1’s brave new era begins in earnest, not everyone is excited.
At the Geneva motor show, former F1 driver Jean Alesi admitted he is no fan of the ‘greener’ era of energy-recovery boosted cars.
“The driver is being completely overshadowed by the new technology,” said the Frenchman.
“It is a challenge for the engineer but not the driver. We have entered an era in which only the tools count,” added Alesi, who raced more than 200 times until 2001.
“Now a driver cannot trust his instinct to attack his opponent because he is just one small element of the machine.”
Alesi said it is no surprise Mercedes looks set to dominate early in 2014.
“That has not happened by chance,” said the French-Sicilian. “As (Ferrari boss) Stefano Domenicali has said, Mercedes is a giant who did an extreme preparation for this championship.”
Also not overjoyed at F1’s new era is Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who said the changes for 2014 have been “very expensive for teams but changing little for the viewer”.
But FIA president Jean Todt insists formula one had to change.
“If you go to the Geneva motor show,” he told Italy’s La Stampa, “you see that cars are different now. There are hybrid and smaller engines, fewer cylinders.
“The automotive world has changed, and F1 must be a laboratory of technologies rather than a showcase of aerodynamics,” Todt said.
He is even unapologetic about F1 losing its iconic engine ‘scream’.
“The sound of the turbo has its own charm,” Todt insisted, “but in addition we have powerful cars that consume much less fuel — it was an inevitable revolution.
“And if Honda has decided to come back, it means the revolution is working.”
At the same time, Todt said, formula one must reduce its costs.
“It is absurd,” he said, “that half of the drivers in the maximum category of automobile racing are paying to drive. I know of no other sport in the world where that happens.”
The apparent solution is a mandatory cost cap, and the details are being discussed now. Not supportive at all is McLaren’s returning supremo, Ron Dennis.
“If you can’t afford to be in F1,” he said on Thursday, “don’t be in F1.”
Dennis also accused the FIA of being hypocritical about costs, having imposed the “most expensive engine in the history of motor sport” on the teams.
“The same people who took us down this path are now going down another path, saying we need to reduce costs. How contrary to logic is that?” he asked.
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