LONDON (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, two drivers with five world titles between them, portrayed Formula One on Thursday as a ‘broken’ sport burdened with over-complicated rules and uncertain where it was heading.
Hamilton, who can win a third successive title with Mercedes this season and the fourth of his career, was asked during pre-season testing whether he felt the sport was broken, lacking direction or healthy.
“I would probably say the first two,” he told a news conference. “I don’t want to say too much about it, but I do agree with the first two.”
With the opening race of the 2016 championship in Australia little more than two weeks away, the sport has yet to decide what format qualifying will be this season and when any new version might be introduced.
A change was announced last week but commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said the necessary software could not be ready in time for Melbourne.
Team managers then agreed a further change, with a knock-out system for the first two phases but reverting to the old format for the last one. That has yet to be accepted by the governing FIA, however.
“It was fine, it was okay. Why confuse people more,” Hamilton said of the proposed qualifying switch to an elimination format.
There is also uncertainty over future rules, with an attempt to reach agreement for 2017 — when cars are supposed to be faster, more aggressive and harder to handle — kicked down the road for further discussion.
Much of the talk at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday was about a proposed new ‘halo’ cockpit head protection device being trialed on Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
Hamilton made his views clear on Instagram: “Please no! This is the worst looking mod (modification) in Formula One history,” he said.
“I appreciate the quest for safety but this is Formula One and the way it is now is perfectly fine,” added the 31-year-old Briton.
Alonso, a double world champion who endured a nightmare season with McLaren last year, told reporters separately that he felt ‘sad’ for the sport and the direction it had taken with the qualifying change.
“It’s sad. I am sad,” said the Spaniard.
“I am sad for the sport... it doesn’t look right from outside when in one week we change the qualifying format three times,” he added.
“If I was... from another sport, I would look at Formula One a bit surprised. I don’t think it’s right... too many changes, and the complexity of the rules, also for the spectators, is quite high.”
Alonso said his friends wanted to watch big battles, fast cars, big tyres, plenty of noise and clear rules.
Instead they were baffled by the complexities of the hybrid energy storage systems and a baffling range of tyre choices and compounds.
“Things like that... it’s normal they switch off the television,” he said.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris