(GMM) The contribution of the driver as part of the overall performance package in Formula 1 is down to a paltry 10 percent, says Arturo Merzario.
That is the lament of former F1 driver Arturo Merzario, who is perhaps best known for his Marlboro cowboy hat and having pulled Niki Lauda from his fiery Ferrari in 1976.
Now 80, the Italian was asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport to name the drivers for his personal F1 ‘dream team’ of today.
“With electronics and technology today,” Merzario answered, “the differences between drivers are really minimal.
“In Nuvolari’s time, the driver was 70 percent of the final result. Little by little it has disappeared. In my time, it was 50 percent. Now, without offending anyone, we have reached 10 percent.”
However, he admitted that top drivers like Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton still “make a difference”.
“But first we were talking about seconds, then tenths, and now it’s even thousandths. They all reach great perfection, thanks to simulators, karting training that began at seven or eight years of age, and very well-prepared teams.”
And Merzario insists that there are “other motivations” including “political and industrial interests” that go into F1 driver choice these days.
“In the 60s and 70s, and I dare say until the end of the 80s, a team’s choice of drivers was dictated by the abilities that could be seen,” he said. “Then came the era of briefcases.
“It didn’t matter whose dowry it was, whether it was from the mother, the grandfather or the sponsor. The seat was taken away from those who were more talented.”
So when asked what he would like to change about modern F1 to make it more attractive to him, Merzario admitted that there are “many things” that would qualify.
“First of all, motor sport should be made human and no longer just technical,” he said. “The decision rests too much with the pit wall, and not only on opinions but with computers and equipment that determine the progress of a race.
“We should return more to human sensations,” he added. “Even the figure of the mechanic counts little in F1 compared to before. There is no longer the one who knows how to do it all.
“Again, I don’t want to offend anyone, as it also applies to other sports. But it’s the sad reality.”