Why Bernie Ecclestone is wrong about drivers

Bernie Ecclestone says that he wants to see former World Champions Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen back in the sport. Villeneuve and Hakkinen have both been mentioned in relation to drives for 2005 but at the moment neither seems likely to land a seat that would give them a chance to achieve very much. There is likely to be a drive available at BAR as Jenson Button has made it abundantly clear that he has no desire to stay with the team. The Contract Recognition Board has yet to rule on whether or not Button should stay with the team but even if it rules against him, there is little to be gained for the team by having a star who does not want to be there.

Beyond that there are no sensible drives available for either Villeneuve or Hakkinen and they will gain nothing from returning. Ecclestone says that both men represent "charisma, and that is what we need". Ecclestone is right that F1 needs charisma but resurrecting old stars is not the answer. There are reasons why Hakkinen and Villeneuve are no longer in F1 and these cannot be ignored. It is a far better policy to look at the younger drivers and allow them to develop without being muzzled by teams and sponsors.

Formula 1 drivers should not have to be corporate spokesmen. They should be allowed to have opinions and to voice them and it is a big mistake for F1 teams to muzzle them. A few controversial remarks often create much more publicity than the usual drab answers one hears in press conferences.

Thankfully there are a lot of the new generation in F1 who show signs of having plenty of charisma and who are lively and interesting. All they now need is to be in the best cars and to get the exposure, rather than having their way blocked by rehabilitated old stars. Mark Webber, Takuma Sato, Giorgio Pantano and Antonio Pizzonia are all interesting people. Vitantonio Liuzzi is a great character and while there are others who suffer from having had too much media training or simply from having spent their lives doing nothing other than racing karts and cars, there is plenty of raw material which only needs to be properly nurtured.

Racing has always had its free spirits and should continue to do so.

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