Mark Webber has admitted he is concerned about the road on which F1 has turned. Ahead of the radically-new turbo V6 era, the Australian veteran called time on his F1 career and switched to the increasingly popular Le Mans with Porsche.
So as the first season without Webber since 2001 comes to a close this weekend, the popular 38-year-old was asked by Austria's Salzburger Nachrichten to contemplate the highly-anticipated title showdown between Mercedes' two drivers. Webber duly gave his answer, but completed his comments with: "I have to say, there are more important things in formula one at the moment. I'm talking about the state ... the prosperity of the entire sport."
Indeed, it is a tumultuous time for F1, with backmarkers going out of business and the next-smallest teams fighting viciously over income and power. Webber thinks the sport also took a sharp turn with its new regulations this year.
"Look at Kimi (Raikkonen)," he said. "This is not racing. If you could drive the cars hard at the limit, he would be there. One fastest lap after the next. He's completely frustrated," said Webber, referring to the Finn who has struggled notably alongside Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso in 2014. "I also found Bernie Ecclestone saying he doesn't need a young audience in formula one very, very interesting," he added.
F1 will, however, have a 17-year-old on the grid next year. Webber is not impressed. "I'm not sure if people want to pay 400 euros for a ticket to watch a seventeen year old," he said. "We've had other cases, like Fernando or Kimi, but these were very special cases and the cars back then were much more difficult to drive, especially physically. The probability of failure was much greater. Now it's almost embarrassing when an F1 car comes out of the pits. It's like a slightly stronger GP2; it's not the formula one we were all used to," said Webber.
He said he does not particularly miss the highest category of open-wheeler racing. "It's been a few months since I watched an entire race on TV," Webber admitted. "After Brazil I was in a car listening to the radio, and 85 per cent of what they were talking about was the tyres. It's frustrating not only for the drivers but for the fans. DRS is embarrassing," he added.
"It's so different to the mid-2000s. I think the development of the last three or four years did the fans no favours. Four pitstops, what's that about? And these pay drivers -- we should have absolutely the best drivers in F1, but some guys who do belong there can't even afford the 400,000 euros they need for a single test day," Webber said. (GMM)