MARCH 7, 2016
F1 figures hit back at Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone is taking flak amid F1's tumultuous beginning to another world championship season.
World champion Sebastian Vettel, a traditional ally of the F1 supremo, questioned the decision to shake up the qualifying format mere days before the circus heads for Australia, agreeing it demonstrates a lack of "leadership".
The Ferrari driver is not alone.
Mercedes president Dieter Zetsche hit out at Ecclestone's recent characterisation of F1 as a sport that is not worth spending money on a ticket.
"I don't understand how someone who is not only the CEO but partial owner of that product talks that way about this product," he said.
"At the Geneva motor show I was not going on the stage to say I would never drive a Mercedes and customers should better not do it," Zetsche added.
There are those who argue that while Ecclestone deserves the credit for building the F1 brand over the past decades, the sport might now need a new era.
"I think he has done a fantastic job for the sport since he came in," former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Motor Sport Magazine.
"But it's not reasonable to ask a man of his age to completely change his mentality. And there needs to be a change in mentality, in many areas," he insisted.
And while 85-year-old Ecclestone often criticises Jean Todt's low-profile and hands-off approach to F1, the FIA president also wonders if the sport needs to turn a corner.
When asked about Ecclestone's latest criticisms, Todt told Auto Bild: "My style is to speak directly with him.
"I like Bernie. He is an extraordinary man. He is 85, and I have just had my 70th birthday, yet he still leads formula one with a great passion.
"But he also has his own style," the Frenchman added.
Todt said he thinks F1 is still "a great sport, which makes a great contribution to the automotive industry. But we are seeing a new and different movie to before.
"Soon there will be cars that drive autonomously. Will a 12-year-old still sit for two hours to watch cars race? I think we need to communicate F1 better to the people," he said.