Alonso and Schumacher defend F1 against critics

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The Independent Online

Formula One stars Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher say people who criticised the opening race of the season for being boring either don't understand the sport or need to start watching something else.

The season-opening race in Bahrain earlier this month was criticised by some for its lack of overtaking and a pedestrian pace brought about by a rule change which bans refueling, meaning every car circulates on the same fuel and tire condition.

However multiple world champions Alonso and Schumacher defended the sport today ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

"We need to be calm and wait some races to see if some new rules have some impact on the show," two-time world champion Alonso said. "I don't think it has changed the show.

"This is about technique, about how precise everything is in terms of the mechanics, the engineering, everything. People who want extra show perhaps need to reconsider if they want to watch Formula One."

Alonso, who won in Bahrain on his Ferrari debut, said F1 has never had as much overtaking as other sports and said demands from some for a new rule which forced at least two pit stops per driver per race were misplaced.

"It's been the normal thing for the past 15 years," Alonso said. "If we have to do two stops, more or less it would remain the same."

Alonso's comments were echoed by Schumacher, a seven-time world champion who came out of three years of retirement to contest the 2010 season for Mercedes.

"If a football match is 0-0, is it boring? If a basketball game is 100-100 is it exciting?" Schumacher said.

"Formula One is not motorcycle racing, it's not basketball. Formula One has always had less overtaking. The excitement is still there for the fans."

Schumacher made his F1 debut in 1991 and said his long experience of the sport told him that the lack of overtaking in Bahrain was more the rule than the exception.

"The matter of fact is there was no overtaking," Schumacher said. "But tell me when there has been more overtaking? Formula One has always had this situation. There are very clever people always thinking how to improve, make things better ... its not so easy."

Just as there was little changing of the running order in Bahrain, neither driver expected any alteration to the pecking order for race two in Melbourne.

Alonso only inherited the lead in Bahrain due to a spark plug failure on the Red Bull of runaway leader Sebastian Vettel, and said the Red Bulls should start favorite in Australia.

"Performance-wise Red Bull is a little bit ahead of everybody now," Alonso said. "It's one thing to be the fastest car, and one thing to win the race."

Schumacher finished sixth in Bahrain, behind his teammate Nico Rosberg, who also outperformed his more experienced German compatriot in qualifying. Schumacher expected a similar gap to the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren this weekend.

"We have a fair amount to catch up, yes," Schumacher said. "That is where the car is at the moment. It's tough work Formula One."