While many fans might be wondering why Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo so harshly criticised the new Formula One over the weekend and demanded changes to spice things up, McLaren’s executive chairman, Ron Dennis, sprang to its defence after the most exciting race of the new era, in which Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in Bahrain.
Monday morning may have brought Dennis the traditional pain he feels after any race in which his cars have not been victorious – Jenson Button, in his 250th grand prix, and his rookie team-mate, Kevin Magnussen, both retired with clutch problems – but he urged the sport to maintain its course with the new, eco-friendly 1.6-litre fuel-efficient hybrid V6 turbo engines.
As the quality of flat-out racing throughout the field gave the lie to Di Montezemolo’s disparaging dismissal of the new formula as “taxi-cab racing”, like driving in a procession, Dennis was adamant that Formula One’s future should be secured by embracing greener technology. He told Sky Sports News that on no account must it be bullied into abandoning its new revolution and the road-car relevance that is such a key part of the new package, adding that there should be no sudden reversal barely two months into the dawn of the new era.
“There has to be a time, and I think that time is now, when we take a more socially responsible position,” said the man who began his Formula One career as a mechanic on Jochen Rindt’s Cooper Maserati in 1966 and went on to bring further glory to the fading McLaren team after a Marlboro-massaged merger of McLaren Cars and his Project Four Racing in 1980.
“We live in a world where resources are depleting and the environment is being threatened. Yes, we are Formula One, yes we are the pinnacle of motor sport, but being the pinnacle of motor sport means we have to have the latest technology.
“Reluctantly, I admit, the teams and engine manufacturers have embraced the challenge of effectively competing in a grand prix with two-thirds less fuel than before and developing hybrid systems of the future. These KERS and ERS systems are incredibly complex and the intensity of the development that has gone into them masks the fact that this is the future.”
Dennis also believes vested interests have played a pivotal part in the recent concerted wave of criticism. “There is a very obvious short-termism, driven often by a lack of competitiveness that certain teams have, and they use anything to try to address their shortcomings,” he suggested.
“We are not the most competitive team at the moment but we know what the challenge is, and that’s the challenge of F1. We have our own vision of engine development but these rules were made with everyone having an input and they weren’t lacking in support at the formation.
“We have to get on with it and realise we owe it to the young people of the future.”