F1 stars no longer ’riding a cannonball’ - Berger
"Driving mistakes in my time were punished"
Gerhard Berger thinks F1 is not the spectacle it once was.
"Yes," the Austrian F1 legend and former McLaren and Ferrari driver told German-language motorsport-magazin.com at amid the Kitzbuhel ski slopes. "We have a somewhat difficult time in formula one.
"On the one hand we have seen a very dominant Mercedes. Of course, if someone has done their homework and performed well, they deserve respect and should be rewarded," said Berger.
But he also thinks F1 has lost some of the excitement of the past.
"In my time," said the 56-year-old, "it was not clear after the first corner who would win the race. If everything is normal and Hamilton or Rosberg are first after the first corner, he will win the race.
"In my time you ran out of fuel, the gearbox broke, someone’s engine failed. You never knew."
And there are other reasons for F1’s more lacklustre ’show’ of today, Berger explained.
"Driving mistakes in my time were punished," he said. "You were in the barrier or at least the gravel. Today, the run-off is paved and if you’re lucky you don’t even lose a place as you come back to the track."
The cars, Berger continued, are also not the same today.
"We had 1300 or 1400 hp without automatic transmissions, without electronic aids and without today’s aerodynamics. It was like riding on a cannonball.
"Now the cars have 850 horse power, and you also see sports cars on the road with 850hp, if not more. And the whole thing is so stable with today’s aerodynamics."
Formerly a teammate to the great Ayrton Senna, Berger said he now sees only MotoGP as the stage for true motor racing heroes.
"When I see these very spectacular races with 270hp and 160kg (bikes), we know that this is riding on a cannonball. In F1 we have to go back so that the driver is the determining factor and only three, four or five guys are able to master it," he said.
Having acknowledged the issue, F1 had intended to dramatically spice up the rules for 2017 and 2018 so that the cars are five seconds a lap faster, and in excess of 1000hp.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko blames Mercedes for an apparent watering-down of those plans.
"Mercedes claims that the tyres would not cope," Austrian media reports quote him as saying, "but this is a poor excuse.
"They are in a position of advantage and naturally don’t want anything to change."
But Marko said that, for the sake of F1, something must change.
"Formula one is much too sterile now," he insisted. "The driver is no longer in charge, it is the engineers in the background (who are)."