Two of F1's leading figures have called for the sport's drivers, teams and fans to give the new regulations time and 'keep the faith' in the wake of a curtain-raising 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir at the weekend that, having been billed as one of the most fascinating, open and unpredictable races in years, was ultimately slammed as 'boring' due to precious few overtaking moves.
The dearth of passing, it is widely accepted, is down to the new ban on refuelling in the top flight – meaning drivers must now begin races fully-fuelled, making the cars more difficult to handle and not the most conducive to pulling off late-breaking overtaking manoeuvres. Not only that, but because tyre degradation is now such a significant factor, once one competitor pits for a fresh set of boots, the rest tend to follow suit so as not to lose ground on older rubber.
After that, the chief focus turns to preserving the tyres and making the fuel last all the way to the end of the race – relegating overtaking to something of a secondary concern. Amongst the leading eight finishers, there was not a single passing move throughout under the baking heat of the desert sun, but Bernie Ecclestone has sought to play down fears of a 'crisis', urged that there should be no talk of an urgent re-alignment of the rules in a bid to remedy the deplorable situation and pointing some of the blame at the teams for having unanimously approved the new rules in the first place.
“There is no panic, no crisis for F1,” the sport's influential commercial rights-holder told The Times
. “I think there is nothing we can do immediately, and we should not just knee-jerk into changes. We're involved in four flyaway races now, so let's see how the teams adapt and look at it again after China. The first race with new rules was always going to be a learning curve.
“I had a meeting with the teams and tried to explain to them what our business is about – racing and entertaining the public, not about playing with computers and going fast over one lap. It is basically the same problem we have had for the last few years, with cars not being able to get close to the one in front to create more overtaking. The teams know this, but they won't do anything about it because each team look after their own interests, trying to win.
“Really, we need an outside set of engineers to draw up the regulations and then they would give the teams two years' notice. You cannot really have teams having a part in the sporting or technical regulations – you cannot have the inmates writing the regulations.”
Expressing his scepticism about mid-season rule changes due to the unanimity they would require – as well as the ratification of governing body the FIA – Ecclestone went on to moot the idea of having two mandatory pit-stops per grand prix rather than just one, so that drivers are encouraged to push harder in the knowledge that they do not have to run all the way from their first stop to the end of the race on the same set of tyres, or even his own much-maligned 'short-cuts' proposal from last year.
“I'm pushing, but sometimes people don't understand these things too well,” the 79-year-old Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told PA Sport
of his preferred 'fix'. “They don't see the advantages. [Short-cuts] would be good for TV, and you'd get a lot of excitement out of that. [Bahrain] wasn't the sort of race that would excite most people I suppose, but I think we ought to judge these things a little later on. It's a bit early.”
Those sentiments have been echoed by former grand prix ace turned popular BBC F1
commentator Martin Brundle, who whilst warning to expect 'more of the same' in the races ahead, urges that in time, the sport will be able to 'sort it' and regain fans' interest.