Three ex-drivers weigh in on state of modern F1

Thu, 21 December 2023, 08:00

Dec.21 (GMM) As Christmas and a rare moment of quiet in Formula 1 approaches, three former drivers have revealed their feelings about the state of the sport today.

Alan Jones, the 1980 world champion, admits he has gradually tuned out to F1. “I have a lot of interest now in MotoGP,” the 77-year-old Australian told Channel 9.

“I’ve lost a lot of interest in Formula 1 – they’re all bloody prima donnas,” said the former Williams driver, known for his rough demeanour and straight talking.

“I have a lot of interest now in MotoGP,” Jones admitted. “I love it, it’s competitive, you don’t know who’s going to win the bloody race until the last lap.”

Jones admits, though, to still following the F1 news, and finds one particular recent story particularly “ridiculous”.

“$2 million for Max (Verstappen)’s licence?” he scoffed, referring to the way the governing FIA now charges for the mandatory credential based on points scored.

Jones said he paid nothing for his F1 license when he raced between 1975 and 1986.

“I can’t see why you have to pay $2 million for a licence,” he declared. “What service do they give you back for that? It’s all a bit silly.”

Some years after Jones retired for the final time, Karl Wendlinger made his entrance to Formula 1 – part of the Mercedes-promoted trio with Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

His career, however, essentially ended with a horror crash and head injuries at Monaco in 1994. But he told Kronen Zeitung newspaper this week that he would never have been in F1 at all if he was part of today’s generation of young drivers.

“No, impossible,” said the Austrian, now 55. “I started racing cars at the age of 18. We bought a used Formula Ford 1600 and raced it ourselves. That’s no longer possible today.

“I was told Formula 4 now costs 350,000 euros per year, which is crazy. Even karting is crazy. It’s good that Jonas is a footballer,” Wendlinger laughed, referring to his son who plays professional football in the Austrian Bundesliga.

When asked if he thinks Verstappen can be challenged in 2024, Wendlinger answered: “Given Red Bull’s serious dominance, it’s hard to imagine.

“On the other hand, there were always teams in Formula 1 that found something and took a big step forward. But Max remains the big favourite.”

Finally, 1979 world champion for Ferrari, Jody Scheckter, told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he thinks Verstappen is “better than anyone who drove in Formula 1 in my era”.

“The difference is that many people say that back then, real men risked their lives in Formula 1,” said the 73-year-old South African.

“My greatest success was that I stayed alive – I didn’t even take a helicopter to hospital.”

Scheckter does, however, see one similarity between his early F1 career and Verstappen’s formative days on the grid.

“At the beginning I was a bit reckless, like everyone who is young,” he said. “Max was too, and I didn’t like the way he did it because he showed no respect to the other drivers.

“But then he also realised that you don’t win races, let alone world championships, if you cause accidents and collisions,” Scheckter concluded.

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