Mercedes' gap to rivals 'catastrophic'

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<b>NEW DEAL:</b> The new F1 engine plan embraces an agreement by the engine manufacturers to back a long-term plan to reduce the number of power-units used to just three per driver from 2018. <i>Image: AP / Ivan Sekretarev</i>
<b>NEW DEAL:</b> The new F1 engine plan embraces an agreement by the engine manufacturers to back a long-term plan to reduce the number of power-units used to just three per driver from 2018. <i>Image: AP / Ivan Sekretarev</i>

Sochi - A Russian official on Sunday expressed concern that Mercedes' continuing dominance is hurting Formula 1.

"The difference between Mercedes and the other teams is catastrophic," Igor Ermilin, the presidential advisor to the Russian automobile federation, told Tass news agency after the country's grand prix.

While there have been signs Ferrari and Red Bull are finally closing the gap to Mercedes, at Sochi the silver team's advantage was almost a second in qualifying and in the race Nico Rosberg won with ease.

Read: Russian GP - As it happened

'A loss of interest in the race'

Ermilin added: "This gap creates the problem of a loss of interest in the race, because the result is clear from the beginning. Today, with the best material, technical and human resources and with such a gap and the rules not changing, they will always have the opportunity to win the race." 

The chassis and tyre regulations are changing for 2017 but Bernie Ecclestone admitted at Sochi that he thinks the new agreement on the engine rules for the next two years might not go far enough.

His biggest gripe is that Ferrari, Renault and Honda are struggling under the current regime to close the gap.

So for next year, the hated 'token' system for engine development will be scrapped, while steps will be taken to achieve so-called 'performance convergence'.

F1 supremo Ecclestone, however, is not convinced.

Should Mercedes continue to dominate in 2017, he warned, "That (engine agreement) will all be torn up and we will start again with a new set of regulations, where the engines might be easier."

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