Bernie Ecclestone has raised the prospect of having 'to sue the FIA' should fans be turned away from F1 by the noise of the new, lower-revving and less powerful but more fuel-efficient V6 engines due to be introduced into the sport as of 2014.
Having ditched the turbocharged, 1.6-litre four-cylinder route following stern opposition from Ecclestone and most of the teams and engine manufacturers alike, the FIA has now formally ratified the switch to V6 power in two-and-a-half years' time – ostensibly a compromise to suit all sides, but still the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive appears far from satisfied.
So completely set against the four-cylinder model as he felt the lack of noise that such a unit would produce – in comparison with the existing 2.4-litre V8, at least – would dilute F1's very appeal, it seems Ecclestone is no more convinced by the V6 option.
“People love and get excited about the noise,” he had said a few months ago [see separate story – click here
]. People who have never been to an F1 race, when they leave you ask them what [they liked] and they say 'the noise'.
“I'm anti, anti, anti, anti moving into this small turbo four formula. We don't need it, and if it's so important, it's the sort of thing that should be in saloon car racing. It's nothing in the world to do with F1. These changes are going to be terribly costly to the sport. I'm sure the promoters will lose a big audience and I'm quite sure we'll lose TV.”
Those fears have now seemingly been confirmed, with talk that no fewer than 17 of the current 19 grand prix promoters – including legendary circuits such as Monaco and Silverstone – have vowed to drop F1 in favour of the IndyCar Series should the engine changes be implemented, and have reportedly written to the FIA demanding that the V6 rev limit be increased to 18,000rpm rather than the 15,000rpm that has been mooted, in order to retain the distinctive rasp and performance.
Revealing that the resolution to introduce the V6 breached his 100-year promotional agreement – via Jersey-based holding company Delta Topco – with the sport's governing body, Ecclestone has warned that to prevent circuits from leaving, 'we may have to sue the FIA'.
“[The race promoters] believe these engines will take away what people want when they go to F1 races – the glamour and the noise – and therefore they won't be able to sell the tickets and they won't be able to pay us,” the British billionaire told The Independent
. “They have got a contract with me, and if they can't honour it because they aren't selling any tickets, I probably wouldn't hold them to it.”
Meanwhile, responding to comments made by Williams
chairman Adam Parr that F1 teams are in the 'early stages' of discussions regarding the acquisition of a minority stake in the sport, Ecclestone scoffed: “Very few of them have got enough money to run their teams [let alone buy a stake]...”