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  Monday, 14 October, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Hill: F1 has lost its way
The podium ceremony after the US Grand Prix
The contrived finish in the USA was damaging, says Hill


Former world champion Damon Hill has labelled Ferrari's behaviour in Formula One this year a "public relations disaster" and accused the sport of losing its way.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Sport Online, Hill said that Ferrari's manipulation of race results has been "terribly damaging".

And the 1996 world champion accused the men who run the sport of losing sight of what matters - the people who watch.

The 42-year-old former Williams driver said: "The thing that needs to be changed about F1 is the way it communicates with the world and its viewers.


No-one would be in F1 if no-one was watching
Damon Hill

"For a long time it has walked a very fine line between being a serious and credible sport, and a circus where you're not really supposed to take anything too seriously.

"That can only work for so long. After a while, people get wise.

"With the increased interest in the sport has also come increased exposure.

"The more coverage there is of F1, the more educated the audience becomes and the more they expect and the less easy it is to hoodwink the viewers."

He added: "Most of the money in F1 has come through the marketing of the sport creating a massive viewership. No-one would be there - BMW, the sponsors, whatever - if no-one was watching."

Hill said that viewing figures had declined because of Ferrari's decision both to prevent Michael Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello from racing and sometimes organise who won.

Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher on the podium after the 1994 Japanesen Grand Prix
Hill and Schumacher battled for the title three times
"It has been quite sad to see some of things that have happened this year," Hill said.

"Orchestrating their races backfired on them in Austria, where they were booed after getting out of their cars because of Rubens having to pull over.

"And it went horribly wrong again in America. Both those events were terribly damaging, much more damaging for the sport than if they had carried on racing properly.

"There is not really the same kind of feeling of triumph and success that they were expecting. Quite often it has gone the other way.

"It's damaging for F1 when it should have been the complete opposite."

He contrasted Ferrari's approach with that of McLaren in 1988, when the team dominated the season but allowed their drivers to race for the title.


It is not so long ago that Max Mosley was talking about not creating a situation where the racing was fabricated artificially
Damon Hill

"McLaren won 15 races out of 16 a few years ago. The difference was that they had two drivers who wanted to kick the living whatsername out of each other.

"Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna just went at it hammer and tongs throughout the season and it was a real battle. So there was racing, even if it was only between two cars."

Hill rejected the radical ideas for change put forward by F1 bosses Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone, and accused Mosley of contradicting himself.

"There is no question that the suggestions about putting weight penalties on the cars has raised debate and helped market the sport.

"But it is not so long ago that Max was talking about not creating a situation where the racing was fabricated artificially.

"That doesn't match particularly well with the suggestions he has recently come up with."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former world champion Damon Hill
"This year has been a PR disaster for Ferrari"
In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

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F1 2002
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