1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve says Formula One’s current turmoil partly stems from its chiefs’ willingness to constantly spice up the show.
The sport has been struggling to get out of a rough patch amid dwindling TV viewing figures and disgruntled fans, as well as recurrent complaints about the cars, the power units, the lack of overtaking and Mercedes’ dominance.
To address these issues, F1 bosses regularly try to come up with new tweaks, the latest of which is the much-derided elimination qualifying format that will return for next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Speaking to French publication Le Figaro*, Villeneuve, who remains involved in the series as a TV pundit for Canal+, explains that F1 should not dilute itself in trying to be spectacular at all costs.
“First of all, we are picking the wrong fight if we want to spice up the show,” the 44-year-old said. “We are trying to make F1 the equivalent of the X-Games. We want to cater for the teenagers who spend their lives on the Internet and like something different every 10 minutes.
“But that will never be F1. You won’t see cars exploding during a race, or rolling 20,000 times, or making 10,000 overtakes all the while drifting and spinning [sic]. We should not try to seek that level of excitement. Any time a decision is made towards that goal, F1 destroys itself.
“We need to restore F1’s past glory, but above all its credibility. It is not an artificially manufactured Hollywood show. Any time we head in that direction, the sport becomes less interesting.”
*Editor’s note: Villeneuve spoke to Le Figaro before the Australian Grand Prix qualifying debacle and ensuing flip-flopping, which makes the Canadian’s interview eerily prescient.