Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Commercial supremo Ecclestone hits back at ‘windbag’ drivers

Reuters, MANAMA

Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has hit back at drivers for seeking change in the way the sport is run, suggesting they were powerless and simply doing the bidding of their teams.

The Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) issued an open letter last week urging the sport to abandon “obsolete and ill-structured” decisionmaking processes that stood in the way of progress.

It was signed by former world champions and GPDA directors Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, as well as chairman Alex Wurz, an ex-F1 racer, and addressed also to stakeholders and fans.

“They can say what they like can’t they? They can’t do anything,” Ecclestone told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday when asked about the drivers’ desire to have a say.

“They can give an opinion. Everyone has got an opinion. Really their discussions are with their team and the team has got a voice,” the 85-year-old said. “They are only saying what the teams have told them to say.”

Asked whether he considered them to be “windbags,” Ecclestone replied: “Some of them.”

In a feisty exchange, the Formula One boss was also cutting when it was put to him that the drivers were not looking to put on a show of strength.

“They haven’t got any,” he said.

Drivers have become increasingly vocal as the sport introduces changes that they feel are making Formula One less attractive to fans and less exciting for those behind the wheel.

A new qualifying format introduced this season proved a failure at the season opener in Australia.

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