Hill in twitter spat with Mercedes over F1's future


Not one to normally rock the boat, on Saturday morning, in reaction to an article in the Guardian quoting Toto Wolff's claim that a breakaway series is a real possibility, the 1996 world champion tweeted: "The sooner Mercedes and Ferrari breakaway the better as far as I'm concerned. These massive industrial complexes are ruining the sport. They don't want to play. They want it all, and all the time. The FIA have lost grip of F1"

Shortly after, Mercedes responded. "Massive industrial complexes ruining the sport". We don't remember you complaining when you were winning all those races with top of the line Renault-power, Damon," tweeted the German team, with a friendly wink.

"Er... I was in a Williams," snapped Hill. "Those disgusting garagiste upstarts. Remember? And actually, I was acutely embarrassed that I won so much. Shame on me."

Fact is, Hill's 1996 title came at a time the British outfit, along with McLaren and newcomers Benetton were the dominant force in the sport, Ferrari not having won a drivers' title in 17 years and Mercedes yet to re-enter the sport as a constructor having only returned as an engine supplier two years earlier.

Hill subsequently defended his comments, insisting that Mercedes and Ferrari don't see F1 as a sport - ironic considering at about the same time Sean Bratches was revealing that "Formula 1 is a global sport that we are actively repositioning from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand".

"Ferrari and Mercedes are acting in concert to try and create conditions under which they would stay in the sport," said Hill, according to Motorsport.com, his words echoing the recent claim made by Christian Horner. "If you would have accused them of working together in the past they would have denied it, but now here they are paired up nicely to try and get conditions under which they would continue to stay at the front of the pack.

"My argument is that it's a sport that should be trying to create at least the opportunity for all of the competitors to have a reasonable chance of competing," he added. "That's always been a difficult problem for out sport, because it rewards the dominant disproportionately."

Referring to the breakaway threat he said: "I just think it's a negotiation tactic. Would they be prepared to compete in a championship where they wouldn't have such favourable conditions? Where they had conditions that were more equal? If they're not prepared to do that, maybe they shouldn't be here.

"They could blow every team out of the water," he continued. "The industrial manufacturer complex idea I was using is because they gave far more resources than any F1 team could possible imagine unless they are another manufacturer. So if you're going to bring such enormous resources, someone has to set the rules. Someone has to at least say 'okay we can't let that go on, we have to bring into play some sort of boundary'.

"That's the FIA's job," he insisted, appearing to forget that it was the sport's governing body that courted the manufacturers in the first place and continues to do so, "and they don't have the power to do it because it was relinquished."

"Ultimately I'm coming from this position: Drivers have careers too, and this is the pinnacle of our sport. That's what we continue to say and that's what drivers set their goals at. Globally, it's presenting itself as the Everest. So you can't lock out 99 per cent of the competition. You have to find a way to open it up. And I know it's an impossible task, because there's only a few people who could ever be competitive. But at least there needs to be an attempt to broaden the base of the pyramid a little bit."

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Published: 26/03/2018
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