Ex-F1 manager Weber blames ‘decline’ on leaders, current drivers

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Michael Schumacher’s former manager Willi Weber has said that the self-interest of the leaders within Formula 1 and the current generation of drivers are the reasons behind the sport’s apparent decline.

In 2014, there has been a great deal of focus on ‘improving the show’ in Formula 1 after the global television audience fell by 50m. Figures such as Luca di Montezemolo and Bernie Ecclestone have been critical of the sport’s new formula, but Weber feels that the sport is not moving with the times.

“There are many reasons for the decline of the Formula 1,” he explained to Bild. “First, the fish rots at the head. Bernie Ecclestone is much too old to embrace the age of new media. FIA president Jean Todt lacks the power to enforce.

“These men think only of their own interests.”

Weber also feels that the characters within F1 are not what they used to be, calling them “wimps” with reference to Sebastian Vettel’s moaning during the British Grand Prix during his tussle with Fernando Alonso out on track.

“Who wants to see the wimps of today crying on the radio?” Weber asked. “There are no more characters like Ayrton Senna, Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher were.

“They would not complain on the radio but give their answer on the track.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has called for a summit to discuss the ‘wrong turn’ that has been taken, after labelling the sport as taxi cab racing over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. Rather aptly, the drivers did give their answer on track by producing a sensational race under the lights.

And that is the way it has been all season long. 2014 is shaping up to be a classic year despite the off-track sagas concerning the sport’s direction – what better way to prove that F1 is in good health?

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.