25 March 2015
Watson: Too much self-interest in F1
F1 driver-turned-commentator John Watson insists that those intimately involved in the sport need to take a good look at what they are doing to harm it.
Former F1 racewinner, and 1982 world championship contender, John Watson has echoed the concerns of other observers, insisting that those at its heart need to realise that they are among the root causes of its current decline.
With Mercedes having taken up the mantle of the previously dominant Red Bull team, and Caterham having been lost for good, F1 heads into 2015 with worries at both ends of the grid, but it is the latter that is of most concern to Watson, who believes that it is more than just the tail-enders in danger of implosion.
“F1 needs to get out of the hole it's in, but the trouble is the teams are all playing political games,” the Northern Irishman told Britain's Guardian newspaper as teams prepared for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, “F1 has a major problem, but the sport is putting its head in the sand. Two-thirds of the grid are struggling, and barely able to make it to the race. Right now, F1 needs to have a good look at itself and decide what it is trying to achieve.
“The product is in need of a massive kickstart, [but] to get teams to agree to anything, they all want something back - some of the teams haven't got the wisdom to realise that they might have to give up something to save what has been such a fantastic sport for the last 40 years. There is too much self-interest.”
The 68-year old driver-turned-commentator – who drove for Brabham, Surtees, Lotus, Penske and McLaren during a lengthy F1 career – also reserved some of his ire for those making the rules, claiming that the promoter and governing body appeared content to let the sport's malaise strip it of the smaller teams that helped contribute to the spectacle.
“Bernie Ecclestone has done a phenomenal job for [owners] CVC, but somebody needs to step in because of the dire state the middle and bottom of the grid is in,” Watson insisted, “You can't have a race with just four big teams.”
In particular, the five-time race winner sees the unnecessary switch to V6 turbo engines not only as playing a major part in the current high cost of competing, but also for removing competition at the front of the field.
After another drubbing in Melbourne, the cracks are beginning to show in the previously-triumphant Red Bull-Renault partnership, underlining the problems being caused by a lack of performance in Mercedes' wake.
“The regulations do not allow you to produce an entirely new engine this year, so the teams have to make the most of their development tokens - but that means that Mercedes, who have got everything spot on, are now enjoying complete domination,” Watson fumed, “Another problem has been the reduction in testing time, again to cut costs – and, this season, teams have only four engines instead of five, so no one wants to do mileage because of the meagre engine allowance. Yet these hybrid engines are so complicated that everybody needs track time. Half the problem is bloody procedures. It's nuts, total nuts.”
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