Mercedes dom­i­nance ‘bad for fu­ture of F1’

Ex-chief hits out as Wolff re­veals racist ‘scars’ of Hamil­ton, writes Oliver Brown in Mex­ico City

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Formula One -

Nick Fry, the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Mercedes’ For­mula One team and the man who laid the plat­form for their record-break­ing dom­i­nance, ad­mits that the Sil­ver Ar­rows’ supremacy is stran­gling the sport.

With Mercedes still cel­e­brat­ing a sixth straight con­struc­tors’ ti­tle, soon to be adorned by a sixth driv­ers’ crown for Lewis Hamil­ton, he ar­gues that it is time for the be­he­moth he helped cre­ate to be dis­lodged at the sum­mit. “On the one hand, they de­serve ev­ery­thing,” he said. “On the other, for the rest of us, it’s pretty dull.”

For Mercedes’ re­peat tri­umphs to stir en­nui in the pad­dock is a fa­mil­iar rit­ual. But for a re­cent in­sider to speak so crit­i­cally about the wider im­pli­ca­tions for F1 is highly un­usual. “It’s a ridicu­lous sit­u­a­tion that three teams have won ev­ery race for the last five years,” Fry says. “But for an act of God, great teams like Mclaren and Wil­liams have vir­tu­ally zero chance of win­ning a race, and that doesn’t make for the best en­ter­tain­ment for those of us who love F1. This needs to be a sport where at least half of the com­peti­tors are in with a shout of win­ning.”

Fry, who was in charge at Mercedes through­out Michael

Schu­macher’s three sea­sons and who played a piv­otal role in ne­go­ti­at­ing Hamil­ton’s move to the team in 2012, also ac­cuses the sport’s power bro­kers of be­ing too timid in their ap­proach to re­form. Jean Todt, the head of gov­ern­ing body the FIA, and Chase Carey, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of F1, are, he sug­gests, more con­di­tioned to talk­ing than do­ing.

“Fun­da­men­tally, the prob­lem is that while Jean Todt and Chase Carey are ex­cel­lent man­agers, they are not demon­strat­ing the lead­er­ship skills that we would have seen from Max Mosley and Bernie Ec­cle­stone,” Fry says. “The pen­du­lum has swung too far the other way. You can’t run a sport like For­mula One with a purely cor­po­rate way of do­ing things. This can’t be a democ­racy, be­cause the ones with the power are al­ways go­ing to vote for the sta­tus quo.

“I strongly feel that while the way Max and Bernie went about busi­ness wasn’t al­ways de­sir­able, they got things done. It’s dif­fi­cult to see that they would let it con­tinue as it cur­rently is. It needs rad­i­cal change. Much that was wrong with the sport 10 years ago is still wrong. Is­sues such as cost caps and the fairer dis­tri­bu­tion of in­come are still not ad­dressed. Un­less they change the sport so it be­comes more com­pelling, the pat­tern will go only one way, and it’s not go­ing to be a pos­i­tive one for F1.”

Ahead of to­mor­row’s Mex­i­can Grand Prix, Lib­erty Me­dia, F1’s owner, is hold­ing sev­eral meet­ings with the teams in a last-ditch ef­fort to sell its vi­sion for the sport post-2021, when dras­tic reg­u­la­tion changes will come into force. In par­tic­u­lar, a bud­get cap of £125 mil­lion per team is de­signed to en­cour­age closer ri­val­ries. Fry, whose book Sur­vive, Drive, Win marks the 10th an­niver­sary of Brawn GP’S cham­pi­onship vic­tory, indi­cates that it is this type of stun­ning mo­ment – when a pri­va­teer team usurped the tra­di­tional forces – that the sport must re­cap­ture.

“Sadly, a lot of peo­ple re­flect that this was the point they lost in­ter­est in For­mula One,” he says.

Hamil­ton, Fry’s one-time protege, has his­tory of his own to chase here in Mex­ico this week­end, with ti­tle No 6 promis­ing to take him within one of Schu­macher’s record. He needs to beat team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas by at least 14 points, a mar­gin he has man­aged only once this sea­son. While he in­sists Mercedes are dis­ad­van­taged by the high alti­tude, the re­sults in first prac­tice yes­ter­day painted a dif­fer­ent pic­ture, with Hamil­ton first and Bot­tas fifth. If those stand­ings are re­peated in the race, glory will be his.

Hamil­ton made an oblique com­ment that “there is a lot go­ing on in my life away from the track”. Toto Wolff, the team prin­ci­pal at Mercedes, did not con­nect the re­mark to any spe­cific in­ci­dent but re­flected that his driver had been per­ma­nently scarred by the racist abuse he ex­pe­ri­enced as a child.

“When Lewis was younger, he was the only black kid among the white kids, and I know he was racially abused on the track,” Wolff said. “If that hap­pens to an eight-year-old, or a 10-year-old, it just leaves scars that will not go away. To­day, Lewis has a good and ma­ture per­spec­tive, but the scars are cer­tainly there. Those scars are a wit­ness of hav­ing sur­vived.”

In front: Lewis Hamil­ton was fastest in prac­tice at wheel of his Mercedes

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