Ecclestone advises Vettel 'to take a year off'

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has advised his good friend Sebastian Vettel to take a year off from Formula 1 and observe the sport’s changes before deciding on his future.

The shock announcement of Vettel’s departure from Ferrari at the end of this season has sparked a lot of speculation about the four-time world champion’s next move.

On paper, opportunities exist at Renault and Mercedes for 2021, but there are also good reasons for Vettel not joining either team.

Oddly, the prospect of the German driver taking a sabbatical has seldom been mentioned, but at 32-years-old – two years young than Lewis Hamilton, Vettel could afford to spend 12 months on the sidelines.

And that’s exactly what Ecclestone has advised his friend to do.

“I’ve been talking to him quite a bit and maybe he should take a year off,” said the 89-year-old in an interview with the Evening Standard. “So, come back in 2022 with the rule changes.

“It gives him a chance to wait and see how F1 is going to change. But I think what he’d like to do is drive for Mercedes against Lewis.”

Watching from afar, Ecclestone has taken note of the changes that will sweep F1 from next year, like the introduction of a $145m budget cap.

But Mr. E hasn’t been impressed by the amount of emphasis put on discussions about the cost-cap level.

“It’s been complete rubbish,” he said. “They were messing about over £5million, which is a tiny percentage of their budget, when there’s other things that need to be done.

“When I owned Brabham, we used to spend a lot less than Ferrari and we still won and they didn’t. It’s about the people, not the money.

“The money’s become an ego competition rather than a real competition, one guy just wanting to spend more than the other guy. But again, the public don’t care.”

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) with Fabiana Flosi (BRA) and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.

As for the sport’s truncated 2020 season, Ecclestone reiterated his belief that the entire campaign should have been called off in light of the disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a funny championship, isn’t it?” he said. “You have the Austrian Grand Prix and the next week the same thing but called something else.

“So, you’ll look at the championship, someone wins and you’re not quite sure what they’ve won. And people will forever say that it was a lucky win because it wasn’t really a championship.”

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‘F1 budget cap battle was complete rubbish’

Arguing for weeks over $5 million, Bernie Ecclestone feels budget cap battle has been “complete rubbish”.

Last week Formula 1 finally announced that the 10 teams had reached an agreement on the 2021 budget cap.

The deal, which saw the cap reduced to $145 million for 2021 before falling to $130m over the following two years, has been ratified by the World Motor Sport Council.

It took the team’s almost two months to agree to the reduction even though it is only $5m short of their initial agreement, decided as the financial crisis hit, to drop the cap to $150m.

“It’s been complete rubbish,” said Ecclestone to the Standard.

“They were messing about over $5 million, which is a tiny percentage of their budget, when there’s other things that need to be done.

“When I owned Brabham, we used to spend a lot less than Ferrari and we still won and they didn’t.

“It’s about the people, not the money.

“The money’s become an ego competition rather than a real competition, one guy just wanting to spend more than the other guy. But again, the public don’t care.”

The cap, though, was not the only rule given the green light by the WMSC.

The Council also approved a sliding scale for R&D that will see the top team in the 2020 championship have less windtunnel time than the team that finishes second.

So it will go down the order with P10 given the most time.

Ecclestone believes this is the perfect opportunity to Formula 1 to shake things up and find a way to make the sport less predictable.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to reset the clock,” he continued.

“There’s millions of things that could be done better.

“People watch Formula One for competition. They don’t want to go to a race knowing who’s going to win.

“They need to simplify the cars.

“The engine they have is an incredible feat of engineering, but do the public care how super-efficient that is? Probably not. They just want good racing.

“Gone are the days when you’d start a race with 16 cars and you’d be lucky if half of them finished.

“Now everyone finishes and it’s got a bit boring and predictable.”

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Midweek Wrap: Double the Ferrari Drama, Mercedes Rumours Continue

The constructor’s championship may be decided, but for its two leading protagonists, the past seven days have seen them offer plenty to talk about.

Ferrari Civil War Heats Up Again: Either a waking nightmare or the gift that keeps on giving, depending on where you’re sitting, Ferrari’s season of misery continued in Brazil as Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc reignited their rivalry in the worst possible way, with an entirely avoidable collision that took them both out of the race.

Literally a day after the Scuderia celebrated their 90th anniversary, it’s hard to think of a worse possible way they could mark the milestone, but it also served as a timely reminder that allowing their drivers to battle simply isn’t the Ferrari way.

I mean sure, it’s great from a neutral’s perspective to see Vettel and Leclerc duke it out, and Mattia Binotto is at least publicly in support of the fight continuing, but when you consider the ethos this team has operated on throughout its history – from Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, all the way back to Alberto Ascari – it would seem odd to let it continue into 2020.

Of course, that then raises the tough question of which driver should Mattia Binotto and co favour, especially considering neither is likely to take it well if they lose out.

As GP247 EIC Paul Velasco pointed out to me when we discussed this earlier in the week, back in the “old days” of F1, it was possible for drivers to come to “one year for me, one year for you” agreement over such a thing. In 1978, Ronnie Peterson and Mario Andretti had such an understanding at Lotus, with Ronnie knowing he was faster than Mario, but supporting his successful push for the driver’s championship under the condition the latter would return the favour in ’79. Unfortunately Ronnie was killed at the ’78 Italian GP before the plan could be completed, but with two drivers as capable as Vettel and Leclerc, it does offer something of a blueprint.

Then again, they might not go for it. There’s obviously no guarantee a car will be good enough two years running (the ’79 Lotus wasn’t), and with personal brands and legacies on the line, it would be a particularly tough sell in this day and age. Still, you could be sure the Ferrari of old would clamp stop this continuing regardless – I wonder if Binotto’s Scuderia is capable of doing the same.

… and so does the Engine Issue: A story that continues to simmer, as likely to erupt into full mania as it is to peter-out quietly, the legality of Ferrari’s power unit continues to be in question, with the latest chapter coming just a few hours ago.

Whereas after the quotes from Helmut Marko on the weekend seemed to indicate we would be waiting for Mercedes to lodge an official protest (which they haven’t), now Auto Motor und Sport is reporting the FIA has taken matters into their own hands and “confiscated” multiple Ferrari fuel systems for further examination.

Like everything else so far in this story, this could mean everything, or nothing. Certainly it would be bizarre if Ferrari have continued to ignore the FIA directives issued over the past couple of races regarding this matter – but if so, they it would seem they’re about to be caught out – or, it could just be a case of the governing body wanting to get a little more clarification. Either way though, it’s a distraction the Scuderia simply doesn’t need right now, and you have to wonder how it will impact their preparations for the 2020 seaosn.

Mercedes Quit Threat: Maybe it’s me just being in a state of denial, but I can’t believe that in the midst of the most dominant run this sport has ever seen, Mercedes are considering giving up their F1 team. Nevertheless, we were treated to a pretty crazy rumour over the weekend, with Roger Penske and Dmitry Mazepin reportedly lining up bids for the team.

Maybe if it was just Bernie Ecclestone talking his usual junk, I’d be less-inclined to take it seriously, but this was news which spread pretty fast through F1 circles, and I think that at the very least, the Silver Arrows are considering it. On the positive side, it was only last week Mercedes was trumpeting their relationship with F1, but this wouldn’t exactly be the first time a billion-dollar company put their profits ahead of sentiment.