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MARCH 16, 2016

Qualifying not enough to improve F1 says Berger

Gerhard Berger is yet another pundit who believes Mercedes will once again rule the roost in 2016.

"Well, it looks as though not much in the balance of power has really changed," he told the Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung.

"Ferrari is likely to be a little closer, winning a race here and there, but on the whole I feel that Mercedes has always left something in the drawer," said the former Ferrari and McLaren driver.

"We must also hope that Nico Rosberg can carry on his form from the end of last season," Berger added.

Where 2016 could be closely contested, the 56-year-old Austrian argued, is the midfield, with Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Williams and Force India all close together.

"But it is exactly this closeness that we need at the top, in the fight for the world championship," he said.

Berger said the changes to the qualifying system will not be enough to fix F1's issues.

"The qualifying format was not the problem," he insisted. "Please don't misunderstand me, as the new qualifying could make something more exciting.

"But all these little details, like whether the start time of the race is right, I am not a fan of. MotoGP for example races at the same time and this is an example of hardcore racing at its best.

"The real problem with F1 is the agreements. All the contracts are valid until 2020, which means everyone must agree if they want to change something," said Berger.

"And all the teams agreeing something is not possible."

He also said blaming Bernie Ecclestone is not right, as "With or without Ecclestone, as long as those agreements exist, nothing can be changed".

What will probably change in 2017, however, is the introduction of a 'halo'-style system for better protecting the drivers' exposed heads.

Asked if that is a step too far for an increasingly sterile F1, Berger said: "Safety must not and cannot be described as excessive. We cannot forget that last year a driver (Jules Bianchi) died.

"Safety is never enough. But is it all too perfect? Overregulated? Absolutely yes.

"The average consumer does not want to read and re-read 1000 different rules every year," he insisted.

As for whether 21 races is too many for F1, Berger answered: "That is a lot, but one grand prix more or less will not make a difference.

"The races should just be more exciting. That is all that matters."