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Silence the critics

Am I the only one who is getting sick and tired of people at the top of the sport slamming Formula 1? Bernie Ecclestone, Dietrich Mateschitz and Luca di Montezemolo did it in 2014, at the start of the turbo-hybrid era, doing irreparable damage. Then Bernie did it again on the first day of testing this year, informing the world that he wouldn’t even pay for his own family to go to a race.

None of this helped the poor working stiffs who seek to make a living from F1, and a lot of people in the paddock will tell you that they have seen downward trends ever since, not least when they go looking for sponsorship.

Another deleterious effect is that it has now become fashionable to deride the sport, whereas once it was trendy to know all about its inside machinations. Now the side-of-nose-tapping self-appointed experts slyly relate just how crap it is. It has become ‘smart’ to tear it apart; doing so demonstrates just how savvy and astute they really are.

The latest to jump on the bandwagon was Alain Prost, the four-time World Champion, who might comfortably be said to have benefited hugely from everything he took from the sport.

He was unimpressed by television coverage of the GP of Europe in Baku – he wasn’t here in person, you understand – and felt it incumbent upon himself to tell the world.

“I did not watch Friday and Saturday,” he said. “I just followed social media and everyone was saying fantastic things about the track, so I decided to put on my TV,” he said. “The coverage was awful. I did not see the track everyone was talking about. The positions of the cameras were not very good. It was not really a good show.

“There was only one corner, with the left/right, where the cars were okay, where you got the impression of speed.

“You’re watching the onboard camera and under braking you cannot see the speed, you cannot hear the noise, you cannot see the difficulty.

“If I was seeing F1 for the first time, I would just think I do the same behind the wheel of my own car. I want it to show something very difficult. I was bored.”

Well, thank you Alain, that should help. But back when you were busy racking up your lucrative 41 wins with Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams, it wasn’t always visually exciting, either. In fact, your peerless, metronomic style of driving, not dissimilar to Nico Rosberg’s in Baku, made it boring sometimes, too.

But here’s the thing. Prost did at least offer some suggestions how he thought things might be improved, which is more than most vocal critics do.

“I would like to see maybe smaller tracks, with more done for the show and the ambience,” he said. “And it should be much less expensive so that people can come with their children.”

In general, though, when did you ever hear the mavens of soccer, tennis, rugby or cricket telling the world how awful their sports are? The odd game might get criticized, but not the sport itself, not the chosen formula, regulations and the show.

F1’s continual self-flagellation needs to stop – and soon. And in its place we need positive comment and somebody savvy enough to highlight just how damn good the racing has been most of the season.

Thankfully James Allison is a counter-balancing, positive force. At the recent FIA Sport Conference in Turin, Ferrari’s technical chief was optimistic about the new regulations that come into force in 2017.

“Some people think that the closeness of the racing is all that matters,” he said. “But so do lap times. We want every race to be a fist fight and that is happening, but the best lap times were set some years ago. Next year I believe that as well as closeness we will be slashing times.”

How about getting the jump on your mates and start banging that drum?

 

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