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Gerhard Berger critical of 'underpowered' modern F1

11 January 2014

Former F1 star Gerhard Berger has attacked the current state of the sport, saying that watching today's races on television puts him to sleep.

"I didn't turn the television off, but sometimes I fell asleep in front of it," Berger told German specialist motorsports publication Auto Motor und Sport this week.

And Berger went on to explain that in his view, the problem was that the sport has become too safe and sterile in recent years. "Safety comes first, and rightly so, but the cars and the tracks are now incredibly safe," he said.

A big part of the problem in Berger's eyes is the reduction in engine power over recent years: "My gut tells me that 650 or 750 horse power for an F1 car is not enough," he explained. "I think we could have engines with 1000 horse power again.

"Together with perfect aerodynamics, huge run-off areas and the electronic aids, the good drivers are not different enough from the less good," he added. "In my time, when you did a perfect qualifying lap you were a second faster than your teammate, because you were riding a cannon ball.

"In the morning you trained with 850 horse power. In the afternoon, they have given you over the boost pressure 1200 to 1300 horse power. Another gear ratio. Another wing setting. And qualifying tyres, which made for very different braking points. You went without preparation in this round.

"You had to use all your driving skills in one lap," he added. "Therefore Senna was always on pole position even though Lotus did not have the best car. [Then] in the race, everything was different.

"The fans should watch and say 'I couldn't do that' - like they do with MotoGP," he insisted. "Overtaking must not come into existence by DRS, but because of one driver being better than another through a corner. Then there is sport."

Going further down that road, even less to his liking is the FIA's new Formula E championship for electric single-seater cars which launches in September, the 54-year-old Austrian revealing that he'd turned down the chance to become involved in the series.

"I was asked if I wanted to be involved in Formula E, but I refused - this is not my kind of motor sport," he said. "I come from a generation that was proud of your car. You gave it wider tyres, tuned the engine, put a big wing on it [but now] the modern cars are so perfect that they are getting worse rather than better if you touch them."

Whatever his complaints about the modern state of the sport, Berger's admiration for the skills of the drivers themselves hasn't diminished. A year on from his declaration that Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was the best of the current crop, Berger admitted that he had changed his mind and had now been finally been won over by the achievements of the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

"Until a year ago, I still saw Alonso as the most complete driver, but after this year I would put Vettel in first place for the first time," he conceded.

"Alonso has shown this year that he is not quite perfect as I thought," he said, explaining that he had taken a dim view of the Spaniard's mid-season criticism of his struggling team.

"For me, just behind Vettel and Alonso comes Raikkonen," Berger continued. "Although [this year at Ferrari] with Alonso he might now reach his limits."

As for the Mercedes line-up, Berger said that he was "impressed" by Nico Rosberg whom he felt had been "underestimated" to date.

"He did an unbelievable performance against Michael Schumacher and now he's doing the same with Hamilton," Berger explained. "Step by step he is bringing the team to his side. It was like that with Schumacher and now he's turning the tables for a second time. {He's] the Nico I trust to win a world championship."

Berger said that he wasn't as keen on Lewis Hamilton ("Hamilton's speed is enormous, but he has too many distractions") and felt that Nico Hulkenberg was good but "too hyped up" by the media, especially back home in Germany.

"He has earned a place in a top team to show what he really can do," added Berger, lamenting the fact that Hulkenberg hadn't found the expected berth at Ferrari, Lotus or McLaren for 2014. "Force India is not bad, but he would have to get a better team."

And as for the matter of the final race of the season awarding double championship points, Berger's verdict was succinct: "This is all nonsense," he grumbled while refraining from further comment on the matter, putting him firmly alongside another former Ferrari driver John Surtees in his disapproval of the initiative, who had earlier dismissed the double points idea as "purely a commercial gimmick". (See separate story.)


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