Lewis Hamilton refuses to join in criticism of Formula 1

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has refused to join a growing list of top names who are criticising the sport.

The 30-year-old is in an increasing minority of those who feel F1 remains in good shape – even though groups and committees are being formed to make changes and appeal once again to a mass audience.

The FIA, F1’s governing body, as well as Formula One Management and the drivers’ own union, the Grand Prix Drivers Association, have all started their own ways of bringing about change to the rules and regulations.

Here in Austria, F1 returns for the first time since the Le Mans 24 Hour race last weekend – with the event praised for its wheel-to-wheel racing and access for spectators.

Many drivers in the F1 paddock waxed lyrical about endurance racing and their future hopes of competing at Le Mans but Hamilton, who finished second and fifth in Friday’s two practice sessions, said he has never even watched the event and does not think Formula One is in turmoil, at least from his perspective.

“It is the same as it has always been for me,” he said.

“It is fun driving the cars, the same at it has been every year. I always get to drive a new car, it is always a challenge for me and I enjoy it as much as I ever have – I don’t see the races so I can’t see their point of view.

“I don’t know what people are saying. Just knowing how the world works there will be a few people that say one thing and a few people who say positive things – that is how it is with everything.

“It is not my job to decide what Formula One does – there are big guns paid a lot of money to come up with the ideas and it is their job, I just drive the car.”

Questions have been asked about the racing itself with a lack of on-track action causing television audiences to switch off and crowds to stay away from the circuits – but Hamilton does not feel that a lack of overtaking is anything new.

“It is, but when has it ever been that?” the Mercedes man replied when asked if F1 was all about overtaking.

“I have overtaken quite a lot of people in my time but you look back at Ayrton Senna’s races, you look back at (Alain) Prost’s races, you look even further back and has there been a lot more before? It has pretty much been the same for a long time – I would say there is even more now with the tyres.

“It is very difficult for us drivers to say certain things because we have sponsorship deals, we have partners and we have to represent the sport in a certain way.

“You’re only cutting your own tail off if you say something. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you are emotional about anything, it makes no difference whatsoever.”

One man who has hit out at the current state of affairs is Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.

The three-time world champion has never been one to mince his words and believes the rules need to be changed to bring about better entertainment.

“Formula One has basically been regulated to death down the years,” he said.

“Everyone sticks their oar in. The drivers can’t get beyond certain limits. This over-regulation is no good for any sport. All these superfluous regulations need to be repealed, which doesn’t mean that Formula One should become unsafe, obviously.

“But everything shouldn’t be so severely regulated, monitored and automated. The drivers practically have all the decision-making power taken away from them by technology these days.”

Lauda, 66, is taking an active part in the negotiations to bring the spark back to the sport – but has also criticised the modern Formula One driver for being something of a corporate machine.

“We’re currently working on a completely new concept for 2017,” he added.

“We will have completely new cars that are six seconds quicker, look completely different and are harder to drive again.

“Not just anyone should be able to get into a Formula One car and drive off in it. In the past you used to wet yourself the first time you got into a Formula One car.

“The drivers are much too nice nowadays, too. None of them has any quirks now and they all make sure they never put a foot wrong. People want to see real men who make mistakes and say things they shouldn’t.”