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Hamilton defends new-look F1 from Ferrari critics

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain walks down stairs during the second practice session of the Italian F1 Grand Prix at t
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain walks down stairs during the second practice session of the Italian F1 Grand Prix at t

By Alan Baldwin

MANAMA (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton defended Formula One against accusations of being boring on Thursday, suggesting that those raising their voices now Mercedes were on top had kept quiet when their teams were winning everything.

Mercedes have won the first two races of the new-look V6 turbo era with Nico Rosberg and Hamilton looking dominant while champions Red Bull and glamour team Ferrari are having to play catch-up.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has been a prominent critic of the 2014 technical changes, with quieter cars and an emphasis on fuel-saving, that he says have taken away the excitement and turned F1 racers into taxi drivers.

Montezemolo is expected to attend this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix and discuss the situation with commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has also been critical of the new engine sound, and the head of the sport's governing FIA Jean Todt.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion with McLaren, would not be drawn on the politics of the sport but clearly disagreed with the Ferrari boss.

"Di Montezemolo didn't say a thing when Michael (Schumacher) won those five world championships (in a row)," smiled the winner of last weekend's race in Malaysia who will be chasing a third successive pole position on Saturday.

"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," he continued.

"Someone else gets in the lead and they'll say something. It's the nature of the game."

FERRARI SURVEY

Mercedes are favorites to win on Sunday at the Sakhir circuit, with other Mercedes-powered teams also benefitting from a power unit that has been performing better than those made by Ferrari and Renault.

Ferrari have yet to get one of their drivers on the podium this year, with Fernando Alonso fourth in Australia and Malaysia.

The Italian team published on Thursday the results of a survey conducted through their website (www.ferrari.com) with 50,000 fans responding, mainly from Italy, Britain, France and Australia.

Unsurprisingly, it found that 83 percent "were disappointed with the new format, dismissing it mainly because of the drivers being forced to lift off (the throttle) 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, adding that the 'no' vote increased substantially after Mercedes' one-two in Malaysia.

Hamilton suggested fans should be more patient, while accepting that other series such as go-karting, GP2 and MotoGP might have more thrills for those seeking out-and-out excitement.

"Go-karts are the best races to watch because you get to see such natural talent because everyone has the same car and similar engines and you get to watch a train go round, with overtaking from corner to corner," he said.

"Formula One is different. It has different technology, is a different competition... we're in a period of time when technology is everything, and the fact Mercedes have developed better technology than everyone, have generally done a better job this year...

"Red Bull have had the best car overall but now it may change this year. That's a positive... it needs some time before you judge this season."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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