Lewis Hamilton's recent claims that F1 had been dumbed down to the point of becoming to too easy physically met with a mixed response from rivals ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton began the build-up to the event, which takes place on the spectacular Spa-Francorchamps course in the Belgian Ardennes, by claiming that F1's latest technical direction had not met with his belief that the sport should be the pinnacle both technically and in terms of the challenges it placed on the driver.
“Personally, I'm not a huge admirer of the direction that everything's going in, in the sense that the cars get slower every year so physically it's easier for me in the car,” Hamilton claimed, “Maybe in the hot conditions it's still a challenge, but generally it will take me two race distances to feel the same as I did in my first season.
“As the cars are slower, they have less down-force, they're fast on the straights of course but slower through some corners and that makes a difference. I just feel like F1 is the pinnacle within the sport, it should be so draining that when you finish the race you should barely be able to get out of the car. And the cars should be the fastest they can be within the boundaries of safety.”
While drivers questioned at Spa tended to agree with the 2008 world champion, however, they also found reasons why F1 was fine just the way it is.
“In the first instance, we're here for the fans,” Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg pointed out, “”So we need to do great racing. At the moment, we're seeing great racing, so that's a big positive. That's the first and most important thing.
“We need to work on the sound, which seems to be quite important to the fans, which I can understand, [but] those are the sort of things that are important.
“From a driver's point of view, yes, in an ideal world… I mean it's great as it is, that's a fact, but maybe it was a little bit better if I could do quali laps every lap, with the tyres lasting forever. Just proper qualifying every single lap in the race and harder physically. All of that would make it slightly better.”
Daniel Ricciardo, the only driver to have beaten Mercedes to the chequered flag in 2014, admitted that it may be better to be made to sweat a little more, while veteran Felipe Massa harked back to the start of his F1 career and suggested that the level of physicality was related to the loss of refuelling.
“I agree 100 per cent with what Nico said,” the Brazilian confirmed, “Refuelling… is the first point and, at that time, we had a lot more grip on the tyres as well. I think that's the two things that make it more difficult to drive the car - to have more grip, and when we had the refuelling, to have maximum 60kg in the car all the time. It was a lot quicker, most of the laps. That's why it was a lot more difficult from a physical point of view.”
Jules Bianchi, now into his second season as an F1 race driver, agreed that to be more of a spectacle, 'it would be better for the people outside to see that, when we get out of the car, we fall down', while rookie Daniil Kvyat took a more pragmatic approach, insisting that he would not have had a problem driving the previous generation of F1 car, but admitting that there would always be differing opinions that would make it hard to make everyone happy.
Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, agreed with Hamilton's assessment from a physical point of view, but pointed out that there were other challenges to be overcome with the 2014 specification.
“Don't get us wrong, the cars are not easy to drive,” he claimed, “They're still performing very well. Yes, physically they are easy, but there are other challenges. I think it's still a tough job. I remember my time in 2009, and already then the cars were physically harder to drive. I would like more: the quicker it goes, the more we enjoy it. We are racing drivers. If you give us 200 more horsepower and more grip, we will take it – but what we want is to really have good races.”