Bernie Ecclestone railed against the introduction of F1's new engine formula from the very start, and now he has reason to believe that his opposition was justified.
The 83-year old head of the sport initially campaigned against the turbocharged V6 powerplants – and their associated hybrid energy technology – on the grounds of cost to the teams but, following complaints about the noise – or lack of it – that they produced at last weekend's Australian Grand Prix, he was quick to point to other shortfalls.
F1 2014-style is a lot quieter, with a throaty growl replacing the wailing scream of the V10 and V8 eras and, while those intimately involved with the sport have other issues to concentrate on, casual observers and those with less invested in the sport have not held back with their criticism.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker said that he was prepared to take F1 to task over what he felt was a reduction in aural spectacle, despite being happy with the way the Melbourne event has passed off.
"I was absolutely delighted with the whole weekend, but I was not too happy with the sound," Walker told the local Melbourne Age newspaper, "I walked in the botanical gardens and you could hear the sound of the twin-seater F1 car of Paul Stoddart sweeping around the circuit, but you couldn't hear these new turbo cars. If you sat in the grandstand, you could hardly hear them coming down the straight. It's clearly in breach of our contract.
"We are an entertainment company and we have to entertain the public. Everybody was talking about it. When you take the excitement away, you have trouble selling tickets. You have to create demand and part of that demand is people liking the noise of the race cars.
“We are resolving that with Bernie. I was talking to him [Sunday] night and it's not what we paid for. It's going to change. He's horrified about it. It will be an issue for all promoters all round the world."
Ecclestone, meanwhile, suggested that Walker's comments needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, but emphasised that he had already warned against the introduction of the new engines.
“I was sorry to be proved right with what I've said all along; these cars don't sound like racing cars,” he told the Age, “I've been speaking with [FIA president] Jean [Todt] and what I've said is that we need to see whether there is some way of making them sound like racing cars. I don't know whether it's possible but we should investigate. I think let's get the first few races out of the way and then maybe look to do something. We can't wait all season. It could be too late by then."
In a separate interview with Reuters, Ecclestone admitted that Walker was not the only promoter to express a concern and conceded that, regardless of the terms of the Australian GP contract, there were perhaps other obligations to meet.
"I've had one or two [promoters] get in touch and they said how unhappy they are,” he revealed, “I spoke to [Ferrari president] Luca di Montezemolo just now and he said he's never had as many emails on his desk complaining and saying this isn't F1.
“Let's assume [Walker] hasn't got a point as far as the legal side is going. Then you have to look at it from a moral side. If you went into the supermarket today and bought some strawberry jam and you got peanut butter you'd probably be a bit pissed off. Whether the contract describes what he'd bought, the strawberry jam with so many strawberries, I don't know. I doubt it. I think he bought the FIA Formula One World Championship - which is what he's got."
While admitting that the situation wasn't at crisis point after one race, Ecclestone couldn't resist poking the teams who helped shape the new formula.
"If the promoters say 'this ain't what I bought and I ain't going to pay for it' or 'I don't want to pay as much' or whatever, then it is a concern,” he warned, "We give the teams a percentage of the revenue we receive so, if we are receiving less revenue, certainly the teams wouldn't get as much. It's going to cost them."
McLaren boss Ron Dennis, however, warned that making the necessary changes to improve the sound of the cars would not be the work of a moment.
“We can address the sound ..... but give us time for change,” he told BBC Radio's Chris Evans Breakfast Show, “F1 regulations are complex things and, if we change too quickly, all we're going to do is ruin the racing – and the racing is quite good.
“An exhaust system is like a musical instrument, just like a trombone – if you extend the trombone, then the note changes and exhaust systems are exactly the same. So you don't want a lot of back pressure on the turbochargers, so you have a very large tailpipe and that gives you a very bassy note. More revs are the solution but, for that, we need bigger fuel tanks and that means a regulation change for next season.
“To do something that's effective [it will take that long]. You can fine-tune as always, but we've got to be realistic. It has taken over two-and-a-half years to develop the engines for this formula, and it's not just a question of changing the noise, you've got to change many other parameters to get it right and revs means a completely engine configuration and that's going to take time.”