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AUGUST 2, 2000

Bernie wants more pizzaz

BERNIE ECCLESTONE says he's fed up with the "renta-quote" generation of F1 drivers and wants to encourage a new breed of competitors who can think for themselves rather than recite a litany of pre-digested PR speak served up for their advanced delectation by corporate public affairs staff.

F1 drivers today - with the possible exception of Michael Schumacher who clearly believes he's bigger than the sport as a whole - sit at media conferences wearing the looks of startled hares, desperately trying to avoid saying anything which will earn them a sharp clip round the ear from their team bosses when they return to the motorhome.

Since their team bosses would rather limit their contact with the press hounds to a few general comments about the weather, it's understandable why the task of getting any decent quotes is akin to pulling crocodile teeth.

This is where Ecclestone believes that Jenson Button scores. Not only did the 20-year old Brit surf to a brilliant, career best fourth place at Hockenheim, but he underpins his increasingly promising form with a nicely judged blend of confidence and restrained good matters.

Flavio Briatore, the Benetton team boss, shares Ecclestone's view. "The sport needs personalities and I think Jenson will emerge as a potential champion," he said last week.

"I am sure he will mature even more next season because of what he has learned in the past few months. He has a racing brain much older than his years.

"I want (Benetton) to pick up prizes and I expect whoever us driving for us to be much more competitive next year."

Button also has the steel to handle Schumacher, something which Bernie believes is lacking from those who are engaged in what he considers "a phony war of words" with the German ace.

"It's a great shame there aren't a few more like Michael around because he races to win and, in this case, has done nothing outside the rules," said Bernie.

"My advice to one or two of the others is to watch a few videos of old Grands Prix and see how the drivers used to race."