Mark Webber believes Formula One is not in great shape, leaving fans and drivers alike disappointed.
The Australian, who left in 2013 after 12 seasons to race for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship, said the sport was guilty of getting many, many things wrong in recent years in an attempt to make it better.
“And it’s become too artificial,” he said in an interview posted on YouTube ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.
“The championship itself and Formula One itself, I think, it’s not in great shape.
“I think we’re disappointed with it – as an F1 fan, I am; as a past F1 driver and very much a current observer and an educated eye (I am).
“All the drivers talk and … we’re disappointed with where they’ve gone with the cars, the lap times. They’re just not stimulating for the drivers and this is rubbing off – the fans can see this.”
Webber said a lot of questions needed to be answered, fast, if F1 management wanted to get fans engaged again and make drivers the gladiators they once were.
He said sports like MotoGP and soccer had set the benchmark.
“MotoGP, my God, not many people can do that and that’s why people like to go and see them,” Webber added.
“(Lionel) Messi, (Christiano) Ronaldo – this is what people love to switch a TV on for.
“We’ve got a big chance here to keep Formula One like that, but it’s not like that at the moment because – it’s a shame – they’ve dulled it down; they’ve made it very, very ‘straight bat’.”
The 38-year-old, who finished second at last weekend’s Le Mans 24-hour race, said the changes touted for next season were a step in the right direction but didn’t go far enough.
And he reckoned the promise to make cars five to six seconds faster was not all that impressive.
“They need to be much, much, much quicker than that,” he said.
“They need to make heavy changes and get the drivers stimulated again and that will wash off onto the fans.”
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, though, has a much different view.
He believes F1 remains a massive challenge for drivers.
“I don’t see it as my job to judge what F1 is,” the Mercedes driver said in a column for BBC Sport.
“My job is to get into the car and drive as fast and as well as possible.
“What I can say, though, is that anyone who says F1 is not rewarding or demanding for the drivers is wrong.
“I am still massively challenged every weekend.”