TOUGH TIMES: Bernie Ecclestone says the sport needs to be less complicated for fans to enjoy the sport again. Image: AFP / Greg Baker
SPIELBERG, Austria - Formula 1 needs simpler rules to make it easier for fans to understand, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said after grid penalties made a muddle of Saturday's Austrian Grand Prix qualifying (June 20).
McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were each handed 25 place drops, on a grid of just 20 cars, as a result of engine and gearbox failures.
Given that the pair qualified 15th and 17th respectively, and cannot physically start in 40th and 42nd places, they will line up last and take additional time penalties during the race.
"I think we need to have a very, very good look at all our sporting regulations," Ecclestone told reporters after qualifying.
"Don't go over the white line, don't do this, don't do that, if you change your engine you go back 20 places...They (the fans) don't understand," added the 84-year-old.
Ecclestone said the main problem was the complex V6 turbo hybrid power unit and a rule allowing drivers only four engines for the season.
Mercedes has been dominant since the unit's introduction in 2014 with Ferrari catching up this season but Renault and newcomers Honda still off the pace.
Both Red Bull drivers have 10 place grid penalties for their home race, which means that Russian Daniil Kvyat qualified eighth but should start 18th.
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Australian Daniel Ricciardo qualified 14th and would be expected to drop to the back - but ahead of the McLarens. However, the situation is complicated by the penalties having to be applied in chronological order.
Red Bull's billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz, and other prominent figures linked to the team, have united in criticising the sport this week and calling for changes to make the racing more exciting and competitive.
Ecclestone said the fundamentals remained the same - "there's some people with a lot of money, some people without a lot of money. It's always been like that" - but it was a pity one team was so dominant.
"The product which we produce at the moment is a bit top heavy with one team winning a lot of races, probably too easily," he said.
"He (Mateschitz) is a bit frustrated. He's spent a lot of money, does a good job and has been fantastic for F1," added the Briton, who doubted the Austrian would quit the sport.
"It doesn't mean that because he's falling out of love he wants a divorce. He just needs a new girlfriend."