F1 ruined by engine politics - Walter Wolf

Amid the current manufacturer dominance of Formula 1, there are many both inside and outside the sport who are adamant that its future depends on the independent teams.

While car makers come and go, the likes of Williams, Sauber and Force India will stick with F1 through both the good and the bad times, proving they are the lifeblood of grand prix racing.

One of the most successful full independents was Canadian millionaire Walter Wolf, who ran his own F1 team – Walter Wolf Racing – between 1977 and 1979.

It won three grands prix (including its debut outing) and even managed second place in the drivers' championship in its debut season with Jody Scheckter at the wheel.

Amid the current focus on the fight for survival of the independents, Motorsport.com caught up with Wolf at his ranch in British Columbia for a fascinating insight in to how he views the current situation.

And one thing becomes clear straight away: there are almost no circumstances under which Wolf would ever have contemplated racing in F1 with the way the sport is right now.

"No, there is too much politics in F1", he said. "Today, Mercedes is too big, as well as Ferrari, owned by Fiat. Both teams also have excellent managers."

Independent engines

Wolf said one of the big attractions in his era was being able to get a competitive independent engine, in his case a Ford Cosworth DFV for his race-winning 1977 Wolf WR-1.

"We didn't have to produce the engine," he explained. "Cosworth built the Ford DFV, which was very good. Today, independent teams cannot get a competitive engine.

"Look at Williams, whose cars are powered by Mercedes engines. These engines are not the same as the Mercedes works team has. You can buy an engine, but you will not get the same [as the works team].

"For obvious reasons, if I built an engine, I would not give you the same one that I have."

Wolf believes that only having full parity with a works teams is the way to achieve success.

"Red Bull is trying to get 2016 Ferrari works engines," he said. "Adrian Newey used to work for me [at the merger of the Wolf and Fittipaldi teams].

"Newey doesn't want to get Ferrari engines because he knows he will not get the same ones as [Sebastian] Vettel gets. If Mecachrome would build a [Renault] engine that could be on par with Ferrari or Mercedes, Red Bull would be right up there again."

Wider problems

Wolf thinks that the engine situation is not the only concern for F1, because he believes that too much engineering influence has been bad.

That is why he welcomes efforts being made for 2017 to make cars faster and more challenging to drive.

"I hope Bernie [Ecclestone] stays a few more years at the head of F1, but he's not the youngest", Wolf declared.

"I've known Bernie for almost 50 years. He is very clever. Bernie is F1, believe me. Forget the rest.

"I am more worried of that will happen after Bernie. The problem is that he is a smart businessman, he is very aggressive, and his life is all about F1.

"As long as he's at the helm of that association there will be progress. I like very much the new set of regulations that will be applied for 2017. Nowadays, the car is doing almost 85% of the work.

"When they'll go back to normal things [in 2017], the situation will change. And then you'll see Ferrari and [Sebastian] Vettel emerge."

Vettel the best

One of the brightest aspects of F1 is, according to Wolf, Ferrari's main star.

"You know that a Canadian manages Ferrari? The CEO is Sergio Marchionne, from Hamilton in Ontario. He's one of the best managers around. Look at what he did.

"Ferrari is not finished yet this season. He got right away the best driver in the world, Sebastian Vettel, and they are going to sort out the car also.

"For me the best driver in the world - and not because I have a German background - is Vettel. Not [Lewis] Hamilton.

"Hamilton is very good, but he has an excellent car. The engine in that Mercedes is unbelievable. But Vettel will be world champion again, if not this year, then next year."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Article type Interview