LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has backed Red Bull’s call for action to rein in Mercedes’ engine advantage and make races more competitive after a one-sided start to the season.
However, the 84-year-old played down talk of the former champions walking away from a sport they dominated only recently.
“They are absolutely 100 percent right,” Ecclestone told Reuters on Monday when asked about Red Bull principal Christian Horner’s statement that the governing FIA should apply an “equalization mechanism” to narrow the gap.
“There is a rule that I think (former president) Max (Mosley) put in when he was there that in the event...that a particular team or engine supplier did something magic — which Mercedes have done — the FIA can level up things.
“They (Mercedes) have done a first class job which everybody acknowledges. We need to change things a little bit now and try and level things up a little bit,” added the Briton.
Ecclestone said it was not a case of doing everything possible to stop Mercedes but simply to allow other manufacturers more flexibility.
“What we should have done was frozen the Mercedes engine and leave everybody else to do what they want so they could have caught up,” he suggested. “We should support the FIA to make changes.”
Under a complicated system of tokens, manufacturers can make limited changes to their engines during a season but not wholesale revisions.
Renault-powered Red Bull have been frustrated by their inability to keep up with Mercedes who dominated Formula One last year and cruised to an easy one-two win in Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko suggested his team, who won four championships in a row before being left in the Mercedes slipstream, might pull out if billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz lost interest.
“We will evaluate the situation again as every year and look into costs and revenues. If we are totally dissatisfied we could contemplate an F1 exit,” he told German-speaking media.
“Yes, the danger is there that Mr Mateschitz loses his passion for F1.”
Ecclestone pointed out that Red Bull had committed to at least 2020 but recognized the risk.
“Whether they will, who knows?,” he said. “Dieter is a sporting guy and I don’t think he’ll stop because he’s being beaten. He’s more likely to stop if he was winning.”
Red Bull made a dismal start to the season with Daniel Ricciardo finishing sixth and lapped in his home race.
New Russian team mate Daniil Kvyat withdrew before the start with a gearbox failure.
Horner said the rules had changed constantly when Red Bull were winning to give others a chance.
“Double diffusers were banned, exhausts were moved, flexible bodywork was banned, engine mapping was changed mid-season -– anything was done to pull us back,” he said.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff accused Red Bull of moaning because they were losing.
Reporting by Julian Linden. Editing by Patrick Johnston