Bernie Ecclestone: We must tear up the F1 rulebook

Lewis Hamilton could win the Formula 1 championship in America on Sunday. Picture: PA
Lewis Hamilton could win the Formula 1 championship in America on Sunday. Picture: PA
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BERNIE Ecclestone has called for Formula One’s rulebook to be torn up in a dramatic overhaul of the sport’s regulations.

In a wide-ranging interview with German broadcaster ZDF, Ecclestone, flanked by former FIA president Max Mosley, believes Formula One has become an “engineer’s championship” with little emphasis on the driver.

Lewis Hamilton will clinch his third championship in America on Sunday if he claims his 10th victory of the season and Sebastian Vettel finishes third or lower.

But Ecclestone, the sport’s chief executive who turns 85 later this month, hinted that the Briton’s achievements pale in significance to those of yesteryear.

“When people say to me who do I think was the best driver, the name I come up with – and most people do not agree with me – is Alain Prost,” said Ecclestone in reference to the four-times world champion. “Prost had to look after his brakes, his gearbox, everything. He did a good job, so he finished more races and he finished in a better position. Whereas today they don’t have that problem. They sit there on the starting grid and there is an engineer that starts the race. It is not on.

“When the lights go off they should be on their own. It is an engineer’s championship. We are not saying that Lewis is not a super driver but he is given a hell of a lot of help. I’d like to see him in a GP2 car with GP2 drivers. I am not saying he wouldn’t win but it would be interesting.”

Asked how it could change for the better in the future, Ecclestone replied: “Tear the rulebook up. Get a few competent people together and say ‘let’s rewrite Formula One regulations’.”

Faster and more challenging cars are to be introduced in 2017 in a bid to make the sport more appealing. But Ecclestone, a member of F1’s rule-making Strategy Group, which also consists of Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams, as well as FIA president Jean Todt, appeared uncertain as to what impact they will have.

Ecclestone said: “I sit on the Strategy Group and I would like to know what the changes are going to be. They are like all the other rules – like an old Victorian house, people keep doing things to it – but it needs pulling down and starting again. You cannot cross the line and add that, put this in place of that. We need to rip it up and start again.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton insists he is not “taking anything for granted” as he closes in on a third Formula One world championship.

With four races still to go, Hamilton does not mind where he wraps up this year’s title, providing he is crowned champion after the season finale in Abu Dhabi next month.

“I’ve learned from experience that nothing is ever done until it’s done in this sport, so I won’t be taking anything for granted going into the weekend,” said Hamilton. “I’m going into this next race with the same approach I’ve had all year. There are four races left for me to get this championship tied up and as long as it’s done by the time I cross the line in Abu Dhabi that’s what really counts.”