Formula 1 risks being damaged if it does not respond to the criticism it has faced for the lack of action in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. That is the view of Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry, who reckons teams should make it a priority to do something to improve the show.
With huge excitement in the build-up to the season, and the promise of a great spectacle because of the refueling ban, F1 fans, media, teams and drivers widely expressed disappointment at the processional season opener in Bahrain. Given that this is World Cup soccer year – a key rival to F1 for new sponsors – it is considered especially important that the sport delivers excitement this year.
When asked by AUTOSPORT if the dull season opener was bad for F1, Fry said: "I think it would be bad if we didn't react. "I think we have all seen a race that was far from the most exciting that we have ever seen, and what we now need to do is, between us, have a look at it and establish what we do need to do.
"Technical changes are obviously very difficult to make, and expensive. But I think we should look at both the technical side and the sporting side, with Bernie and the FIA, and see what we can do about it. The most important people are the customers – they are the people who pay to come to races, or watch it on television. We are beholden on them to put on a good show, and we should see what we should do."
Although it will be impossible to make changes to the cars or circuits during the course of the season, there are already suggestions that one of the best ways to make a change is through modifying the tire rules. Getting rid of the regulations that demand a pit stop, while still forcing drivers to start on their qualifying tires, could serve to mix up the positions over the course of the race.
F1 teams are openly talking about actually making it mandatory that teams make two pit stops. That proposal was discussed at length by teams over the winter, but never got the support it needed to be put into the regulations.
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said: "I think the problem, with the way the format of the races are, is that you are in danger of one-stop races at all events. I think we should consider whether we do two mandatory stops. It seems ridiculous that the guys train like hell for one stop."
He added: "We've only had one snapshot today, so perhaps we should review it after the first three or four races. Everybody thought I didn't want it because of tire degradation, but I think we have shown today that tire degradation isn't a problem for Red Bull."
Fry added: "That is the one of the things that we should look at. We decided against it before, but is something that clearly could be done. I don't think it would provide a particular advantage or disadvantage to anyone as far as I could see, but I am sure it is going to be high up on the list."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who is also FOTA chairman, already called for new tire rules on Sunday night, but remains optimistic that F1 will still produce a great season.
"I don't think it was a massive spectacle, but I do think it is capable of swinging from one event to another," he explained. "I believe we can go to Australia with me not wanting to put all my money on any one team of the top four teams, so it could turn out different.
"Can we produce more epic races? That is a different challenge. But from a championship point of view it will be a race between those four teams. It will be how cars adapt to the circuits, how well people adapt to the circuits and how well the drivers drive.
"[Michael] Schumacher, as a 41-year-old out there in that temperature, did a pretty credible job today and I am sure he will want to do better. I think you have to say that Nico [Rosberg] has responded to his arrival and beaten him so far, so I am sure he is going to be happy to continue and try and beat him, our two guys are super motivated and will do a good job.
"[Sebastian] Vettel and [Mark] Webber are strong, and you have to say there is no doubt that Fernando [Alonso] is a phenomenal racing driver and Felipe [Massa] won't roll over. Seeing the championship unfold is still tremendously exciting and interesting, I hope we can develop slightly better spectacle in the races themselves."
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali thought it best F1 waited for a few more races before deciding if action needed to be taken.
"Let's wait," he said. "I can understand his point but let's wait and see how the other races will develop. It may be a different situation in different conditions, so I would like to tell you my opinion after a couple of races so we can at least have a different scenario that we can say, [whether] this is the real situation or not."
A FOTA conference call is scheduled for Thursday between the team principals, where the problems of the lack of excitement in Bahrain may be discussed.