Ferrari leads push for F1 rule changes

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) Ferrari is ramping up the pressure on Formula One authorities to change the sport’s rules, saying a company survey shows most fans are unhappy with the new direction of the sport.

Ferrari released the findings Thursday, ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, where its cars are expected to again be off the pace shown by front-running Mercedes.

The release of the survey follows a meeting between Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo and F1’s commercial powerbroker, Bernie Ecclestone. They are expected to meet with FIA president Jean Todt in Bahrain this weekend to press for changes.

Ferrari said it received more than 50,000 replies to its online survey, and said 83 percent of respondents said they were unhappy with the new rules, ”mainly because of the drivers being forced to lift off to save fuel.”

”In addition, the fans don’t like the noise from the new engines and are confused by rules that are too complicated,” Ferrari said.

The major changes to the sport’s rules this year are the introduction of 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged engines with associated use of battery-stored power harvested from the kinetic energy generated by braking and the heat energy of exhaust.

There is also a limit of 100 kilograms of fuel per car, with usage capped at a rate of 100 kilograms per hour. With races generally lasting between 90 minutes and two hours, much of the car’s power must therefore come from the stored power.

While it may prove too difficult to agree on changing those rules this season, a possible way around it could be getting an agreement to cut race distances, meaning more power could come from the standard combustion engine and less from the battery power, freeing drivers to push harder and attempt more overtaking moves.

Ecclestone had always been against the engine changes, and has received backing from those unhappy at the muted sound of the cars, and the pattern of racing in which cars circulate in formation for long periods of the race as a way of preserving fuel.

Chief among the teams urging change to the rules are Ferrari, which has struggled in the first two races of 2014, and Red Bull, which has already fallen foul of the new fuel regulations. Daniel Ricciardo was stripped of his second-place finish in Australia because the team exceeded fuel-flow rates.

Lewis Hamilton, who took pole in Australia and won in Malaysia for Mercedes, said opposition to the new rules was being driven less by the interests of the sport and more by rivals trying to find ways to pull Mercedes back to the field.

”Di Montezemolo didn’t say a thing when Michael (Schumacher) won those five world championships,” Hamilton said. ”It’s the same when McLaren won all their championships that they didn’t say anything, and the same with Red Bull when they won, they weren’t saying anything.”

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was disappointed that the new rules had made the cars up to 10 seconds slower per lap than in the past, but was also against any hasty changes.

”There will be some exciting races and some boring ones,” Alonso said. ”If you allow some more fuel in the cars that are fast, they will be even faster. And the cars that are slow will be a little bit less slow.”