Ecclestone says F1 drivers are powerless 'windbags'

Bernie Ecclestone claims some Formula 1 drivers are just 'windbags' who have only complained about the state of the sport because they have been told to by their teams.

Ecclestone says F1 drivers are powerless 'windbags'
Bernie Ecclestone, on the grid
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari with Bernie Ecclestone, on the grid
Niki Lauda, Mercedes Non-Executive Chairman
Bernie Ecclestone and Alex Wurz, Williams Driver Mentor and GPDA Chairman and Charles Bradley, Motorsport.com Editor in Chief and the drivers launch the GPDA Global Fans Survey
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 with Niki Lauda
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H leads at the start of the race
(L to R): Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team with Alex Wurz, Williams Driver Mentor / GPDA Chairman and Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
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Despite backing an open letter from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) that F1 is in need of reform, Ecclestone has now shrugged off their views and says their push for change will achieve nothing.

“They can say what they like. This is the whole thing,” said Ecclestone in Bahrain. “They cannot do anything. They have an opinion and everyone has got an opinion.

"It is really their discussion with their team; and the team has got a voice. They are only saying what the teams have told them to say.”

When asked why the teams would want the drivers to go public with their views when they influence in the rules themselves, Ecclestone said: “They think it is better. They think people listen to drivers, you [the media] are listening to them.”

Pushed on if he believed that the drivers were therefore just 'windbags', he said: “Some of them…”

Asked to reveal which ones in particular he thought were, he said: “The ones that are.”

Ice cream shop

Ecclestone also was sceptical about claims that drivers were trying flex political muscles with their public criticisms.

“They haven't got any,” he said. “They have got an opinion.”

He also brushed off Sebastian Vettel's claims that F1 was like an ice cream shop at the moment that was still trying sell flavours to customers who preferred other options.

“He's probably right… but do you think he is going to win this race?” he explained. “He should speak to his boss and tell him the same thing. They have been running an ice cream shop for a few years now."

Ecclestone was also quite succinct when asked if he believed that drivers should have a permanent place on the F1 Commission: “No.”

Lauda denial

Ecclestone's suggestion that the teams have put the drivers up to complaining has been dismissed, however, by Mercedes chief Niki Lauda.

The Austrian, who joined Ecclestone's conversation with journalists, said that GPDA director Alex Wurz had acted independently amid unease from all drivers about the state of F1.

“This is Wurz alone, I can guarantee it,” said Lauda. “Lewis can't speak, as you guys know. Wurz is the master. I was surprised that they spoke the same way we do.”

Other leading GPDA members have also made it clear that the letter was not about political ambition but came about simply because drivers love the sport.

Vettel said: “First of all, it’s clear that we drivers are not here to make the rules. In no sports do the sportsmen makes the rules. That’s clear.

“We don’t want to be the ones that decide where the sport is going. In the end we're here to drive the car and that is what we enjoy and love to spend our time with.

"We're not asking on top of that to be in charge of the rules. The intention to send the letter out was there already before the race in Australia.

"Obviously, the qualifying is the best example to show that something is not right.”

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