January 26, 2017 / 11:21 AM / 8 months ago

Motor racing-F1 must tread carefully on rule changes, says Mercedes boss

LONDON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Formula One has a huge opportunity to grow under new owners Liberty Media but it must also tread carefully in making changes to the rules, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

Responding to the departure of the sport’s 86-year-old supremo Bernie Ecclestone after 40 years in charge and his replacement by American Chase Carey, Wolff said the future looked bright.

“The Ecclestone era ending is a pretty big thing,” he told the team website (www.mercedesamgf1.com).

“We need to embrace the future and we shouldn’t be too nostalgic about the past. This sport has a huge opportunity for growing bigger and bigger and we could all benefit from this. We need to push in that direction.”

Former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has been drafted in as a managing director to oversee the sporting side under Carey.

While there has been talk of radical changes to the race weekend, and appealing to new audiences, Brawn has said he wants a full analysis of the sport’s strengths and weaknesses without the knee-jerk reactions that have been evident in past seasons.

The rules are undergoing a major change this season, with bigger tyres and revised aerodynamics designed to make the cars faster and more aggressive but there are already fears overtaking could suffer.

Wolff said Brawn would give the “right guidance, together with the teams and the FIA (governing body), to develop the sport in the right direction”.

The Austrian, whose dominant team have won both titles for the past three years and are again the pre-season favourites, warned, however, that changes needed to be properly evaluated.

”We shouldn’t mess with our loyal fans and our audiences by implementing rules and regulations that we haven’t assessed properly.

“We should use data in a scientific approach and see what works in other sports and other entertainment platforms, then combine that with the great strengths and assets of Formula One,” he added.

Last season started with a new ‘instant elimination’ qualifying system, rushed through after a unanimous vote by teams, that proved a flop and was derided by fans.

The failed format, with drivers watching from the garages as the clock ticked away the closing minutes without anyone on track, was ditched after the opening two races.

Wolff said the sport was not broken and it was important not to talk it down despite obvious ‘blind spots’ such as the digital environment and social media. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Keith Weir)

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