JUNE 10, 2015
Boss Mallya to watch Hulkenberg at Le Mans
Nico Hulkenberg wasted no time after the Canadian grand prix as he looked ahead to his next race outing.
The German is completing the ultra-rare feat in 2015 of combining a full-time F1 seat with a programme to contest the fabled Le Mans 24 hours.
From the Le Mans pitlane on Tuesday, Hulkenberg posted on Twitter a 'selfie' with his Porsche prototype and the caption "She's ready!"
An interested spectator at Le Mans this weekend will be Hulkenberg's Force India boss Vijay Mallya, who will be trackside in a motor home, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.
"Vijay said he would only release me for the race if he could come and watch," Hulkenberg joked.
Fernando Alonso also wanted to combine F1 with Le Mans this year, but McLaren-Honda was not as keen as Mallya to allow it to happen.
The Spaniard, who watched the race last year, was reportedly disappointed.
"The technology is very high," he said. "You can do two stints on one set of tyres, with the laptimes going up by more than a second.
"We only dream about that in formula one," admitted Alonso.
The very fact that the likes of Hulkenberg, Alonso and full-time Porsche driver Mark Webber rate Le Mans so highly is an indictment of the state of F1 at present.
Sunday's Canadian grand prix was condemned by the international media, with not even the usually-customary safety car spicing up the racing action.
"Some would say they (the drivers) weren't pushing hard enough to crash but that's too harsh," former F1 driver turned commentator for British television Sky said.
But also critical is another British driver-turned-commentator, David Coulthard.
"The sad reality is that the drivers are not enjoying the current F1," he wrote in a column for the BBC.
One such driver, said Coulthard, is Alonso.
"In the last two races he has said two things that really hit home," he said. "The first was that the last time he was tested to his limit mentally and physically in a grand prix was 10 years ago.
"The second was that driving the current cars is more about systems management than it is about driving skill," Coulthard added.
"Of course, drivers do not have all the answers. But if you are not challenging the best guys, you are short-changing both them and the audience."
That dwindling audience is being most starkly felt in Germany.
The 2015 race has been axed, and now the host free-to-air broadcaster RTL is reportedly considering not renewing its deal with Bernie Ecclestone.
The German television ratings from Canada were starkly depressing, with the F1 audience reportedly smaller even than a women's football game between Germany and the Ivory Coast.
And in neighbouring Austria, promoter Red Bull is struggling to sell tickets for next weekend's race.
"I do not quite understand what is happening," Austrian F1 legend Gerhard Berger told Germany's Sky.
"In Germany there is no race and yet Sebastian Vettel is near the front in a Ferrari.
"I do not know what has caused the decline in interest, but it is a pity because Red Bull organises a great event."
Another Austrian, Niki Lauda, is also confused.
"Look at Canada," he said. "I don't think the people are very different in Montreal and yet they sold 12 per cent more tickets than they did last year -- the stands were full.
"No one was complaining about boring races or quiet engines -- they were just excited about the grand prix," the Mercedes team chairman added.